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UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




The Editorial Committee of 
THE READERS CLUB 

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in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 



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AND MORE UNLIKELY STORIES 



BY JOHN COLLIER 



WITH A FOREWORD BY CLIFTON FADIMAN 



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NEW YORK 



Some of the stories in this book have been printed in The New 
Yorker and Harper's Magazine; some of them have previously 
been gathered into a volume called Presenting Moonshine 
[published by the Viking Press, New York, 1941] and a volume 
called The Devil and All [published by the Nonesuch Press, 
London, 1934]. All of the stories are copyright by John Col- 
lier: 1931, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943. The special con- 
tents of this edition are copyright, 1943, by The Readers Club. 



WJjjKljw^ FOREWORD !j!!!!j!!!!j^ 



IN THE THREE READERS, AN ANTHOLOGY PUBLISHED RECENTLY BY 

The Readers Club, I included a story by John Collier called 
Back for Christmas. I invited my readers to let me know whether 
they had enjoyed this murderous trifle. Enough of them did, to 
encourage me to wage a campaign with the object of persuading 
Mr. Van Doren and Mr. Lewis that one of the things this sad 
world needs is a good collection of Collier stories. The campaign 
worked, and here is the collection. 

TYfrr r!nlljp r i<uan_ Englishm an (born in 1901) at present resi- 
dent i n this country. He has written. poetry r -a- couple -of-iantasr 
tic^ novelsjjncludin g one about a man who married a chimpan- 
zee) , and perhaps forty o r fifty s tories. It is the stories that give 
him his claim to the attention of the members of The Readers 
Club. There has been nothing like them in English since Said, 
with whose negligent and foppish genius he has a good deal in 
common. 

Today the literary world, in addition to its overwhelming pre- 
ponderance of mediocre minds, comprises great minds, sensitive 
minds, powerful minds, persuasive minds; but in it is rarely to 
be found the genuinely odd mind. By odd I do not mean un- 
balanced; I mean what our ancestors used to call "an original." 
Laurence Sterne was a great original; John Collier is a small origi- 
nal; but both minds find their center in eccentricity. 

These stories are not profound or beautiful or even memorable; 
but they are refreshingly odd, aromatic and spicy: like the nut- 
meg which has given this book its title. John Collier does not set 
up to be a thinker or a close observer of humankind. He works 
in a narrow groove, but there he works well. 

Some of these tales are grotesque or merely fanciful, such as 
Evening Primrose, which tells us all we have ever wanted to 
know about the strange life that goes on in department stores 
after dark; or Variation on a Theme, the peculiar tale of the 
literary gorilla (which, by the way, I conceive to have certain 
malicious symbolical overtones) ; or Ah! The University, sl grin- 
ning oddment with the game of poker as its theme; or Night! 

[v] 



[vi] Foreword 



Youth! Paris! And the Moon! with its headlong tempo and cul- 
tivated extravagance. 

Closely allied to these fancies are a few naughty tales (Old 
Acquaintance, The Frog Prince) whose dandiacal immoralism is 
harmless and charming. 

A deeper note creeps into the stories of the macabre (that 
veteran and inveterate punster, Louis Untermeyer, wanted to 
call this volume "The Real Macabre") . Such are the chilling or- 
chidaceous narrative, Green Thoughts; the comical and bloody 
extravaganza, Rope Enough; and the horripilatory Bird of Prey. 
These are stories Poe would have loved; but they have a mock- 
ing, insouciant quality, very modern, that Poe, who was often 
pretty heavy-handed, lacked. (I am not saying that Collier is 
better than Poe; he is not even in his class.) 

Another vein in which Mr. Collier works, or plays, with flip- 
pant ease is that of the infernal. There are half a dozen such 
stories in this book, some devilishly good. The most impish of 
them is The Devil, George and Rosie; the only one that is serious 
is Thus I Refute Beelzy, which combines a neat touch of horror 
with the most strait-laced morality. Mr. Collier's Devil, of course, 
is a gentleman bohemian. 

But to my mind the cream of Collier is to be found in the mur- 
der stories. I have included half a dozen or so of the best. They 
are unlike any murder stories I have read, compressing in brief 
compass the most extraordinary twists of plot and the most fiend- 
ish atmosphere of suspense. Back for Christmas, one of my 
favorites, is perhaps merely ingenious; but such a tale as Wet 
Saturday is also a remarkable study of a perverted human char- 
acter, as is Little Memento. Somewhat outside this group stands 
Another American Tragedy, the damnedest tale you ever read, 
chilling and funny at the same time. 

Finally I ask you not to miss The Chaser, a moral anecdote 
raised to the level of minor art. Its entire point lies in its final 
sentence. 

Collier's humor has nothing to do with phrases or even situa- 
tions; it proceeds from a peculiar flipness of tone all his own, 
acetic, casual, always surprising. He is mannered, but it is a true, 
not an affected manner. His mind is limited and subtle, working 
only with the unexpected, the wild, and the lightly diabolic. He 
has the genuine souffle touch. clifton fadiman 



V 



c Cs&r%ter%tB 



THE TOUCH OF NUTMEG MAKES IT 

1 

DE MORTUIS . . . 
11 

WET SATURDAY 
19 

LITTLE MEMENTO 

27 

MARY 

33 

MIDNIGHT BLUE 

47 

BACK FOR CHRISTMAS 
55 

EVENING PRIMROSE 
63 

THE FROG PRINCE 

75 

ROPE ENOUGH 

83 

THE CHASER 
91 

THE DEVIL, GEORGE, AND ROSIE 
95 

GREAT POSSIBILITIES 
115 



[viii] The Contents 



HALF-WAY TO HELL 
125 

POSSESSION OF ANGELA BRADSHAW 
133 

THE RIGHT SIDE 
139 

ANOTHER AMERICAN TRAGEDY 
145 

BIRD OF PREY 
153 

THUS I REFUTE BEELZY 
163 

NIGHT! YOUTH! PARIS! AND THE MOON! 
169 

VARIATION ON A THEME 
175 

OLD ACQUAINTANCE 
189 

AH, THE UNIVERSITY! 

199 

AFTER THE BALL 
205 

HELL HATH NO FURY 

225 

GREEN THOUGHTS 
231 



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THE TOUCH OF NUTMEG 
MAKES IT 



!J!5! THE TOUCH OF NUTMEG MAKES IT 59! 



A DOZEN BIG FIRMS SUBSIDIZE OUR MINERALOGICAL INSTITUTE, AND 

most of them keep at least one man permanently on research 
there. The library has the intimate and smoky atmosphere of a 
club. Logan and I had been there longest and had the two tables 
in the big window bay. Against the wall, just at the edge of the 
bay, where the light was bad, was a small table which was left for 
newcomers or transients. 

One morning a new man was sitting at this table. It was not 
necessary to look at the books he had taken from the shelves to 
know that he was on statistics rather than formulae. He had one 
of those skull-like faces on which the skin seems stretched pain- 
fully tight. These are almost a hallmark of the statistician. His 
mouth was intensely disciplined but became convulsive at the 
least relaxation. His hands were the focal point of a minor mor- 
bidity. When he had occasion to stretch them both out together 
— to shift an open book, for example — he would stare at them for 
a full minute at a time. At such times the convulsive action of his 
mouth muscles was particularly marked. 

The newcomer crouched low over his table when anyone passed 
behind his chair, as if trying to decrease the likelihood of contact. 
Presently he took out a cigarette, but his eye fell on the "No 
Smoking" sign, which was universally disregarded, and he re- 
turned the cigarette to its pack. At mid-morning he dissolved a 
tablet in a glass of water. I guessed at a long-standing anxiety 
neurosis. 

I mentioned this to Logan at lunchtime. He said, "The poor 
guy certainly looks as miserable as a wet cat." 

I am never repelled or chilled, as many people are, by the 
cheerless self-centeredness of the nervous or the unhappy. Logan, 
who has less curiosity, has a superabundance of good nature. We 
watched this man sitting in his solitary cell of depression for sev- 
eral days while the pleasant camaraderie of the library flowed all 

[2] 



The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It [S] 

around him. Then, without further discussion, we asked him to 
lunch with us. 

He took the invitation in the typical neurasthenic fashion, 
seeming to weigh half a dozen shadowy objections before he ac- 
cepted it. However, he came along, and before the meal was over 
he confirmed my suspicion that he had been starving for company 
but was too tied-up to make any move toward it. We had already 
found out his name, of course — J. Chapman Reid — and that he 
worked for the Walls Tyman Corporation. He named a string of 
towns he had lived in at one time or another, and told us that 
he came originally from Georgia. That was all the information he 
offered. He opened up very noticeably when the talk turned on gen- 
eral matters, and occasionally showed signs of having an intense 
and painful wit, which is the sort I like best. He was pathetically 
grateful for the casual invitation. He thanked us when we got up 
from the table, again as we emerged from the restaurant, and yet 
again on the threshold of the library. This made it all the more 
natural to suggest a quiet evening together sometime soon. 

During the next few weeks we saw a good deal of J. Chapman 
Reid and found him a very agreeable companion. I have a great 
weakness for these dry, reserved characters who once or twice an 
evening come out with a vivid, penetrating remark that shows 
there is a volcanic core smoldering away at high pressure under- 
neath. We might even have become friends if Reid himself hadn't 
prevented this final step, less by his reserve, which I took to be 
part of his nature, than by his unnecessary gratitude. He made 
no effusive speeches — he was not that type — but a lost dog has 
no need of words to show his dependence and his appreciation. It 
was clear our company was everything to J. Chapman Reid. 

One day Nathan Trimble, a friend of Logan's, looked in at the 
library. He was a newspaperman and was killing an hour while 
waiting for a train connection. He sat on Logan's table facing the 
window, with his back to the rest of the room. I went round and 
talked to him and Logan. It was just about time for Trimble to 
leave when Reid came in and sat down at his table. Trimble hap- 
pened to look around, and he and Reid saw one another. 

I was watching Reid. After the first startled stare, he did not 
even glance at the visitor. He sat quite still for a minute or so, 
his head dropping lower and lower in little jerks, as if some- 



[ 4 ] The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It 

one was pushing it down, then he got up and walked out of the 
library. 

"By God!" said Trimble. "Do you know who that is? Do you 
know who you've got there?" 

"No," said we. "Who?" 

"Jason C. Reid." 

"Jason C.?" I said. "Oh, yes. So what?" 

"Why, for God's sake, don't you read the news? Don't you 
remember the Pittsburgh cleaver murder?" 

"No," said I. 

"Wait a minute," said Logan. "About a year or so ago, was it? 
I read something." 

"Damn it!" said Trimble. "It was a front-page sensation. This 
guy was tried for it. They said he hacked a pal of his pretty nearly 
to pieces. I saw the body. Never seen such a mess in my life. 
Fantastic! Horrible!" 

"However," said I, "it would appear this fellow didn't do it. 
Presumably he wasn't convicted." 

"They tried to pin it on him," said Trimble, "but they couldn't. 
It looked hellish bad, I must say. Alone together. No trace of any 
outsider. But no motive. I don't know. I just don't know. I cov- 
ered the trial, was in court every day, but I couldn't make up 
my mind about the guy. Don't leave any meat cleavers round 
this library, that's all. Look, I've got to get going." 

With that, he bade us goodbye. I looked at Logan. Logan looked 
at me. "I don't believe it," said Logan. "I don't believe he did it." 

"I don't wonder his nerves are eating him," said I. 

"No," said Logan. "It must be damnable. And now it's followed 
him here, and he knows it." 

"We'll let him know, somehow," said I, "that we're not even 
interested enough to look up the newspaper files." 

"Good idea," said Logan. 

A little later Reid came in again, his movements showing signs 
of intense control. He came over to where we were sitting. "Would 
you prefer to cancel our arrangement for tonight?" said he. "I 
think it would be better if we cancelled it. I shall ask my firm to 
transfer me again. I — " 

"Hold on," said Logan. "Who said so? Not us." 

"Didn't he tell you?" said Reid. "Of course he did." 



The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It [5] 

"He said you were tried," said I. "And he said you were ac- 
quitted. That's good enough for us." 

"We aren't interested," said Logan. "And the date's on. And 
we wont talk." 

"Oh!" said Reid. "Oh!" 

"Forget it," said Logan, returning to his papers. 

I took Reid by the shoulder and gave him a friendly shove in 
the direction of his table. We avoided looking at him for the rest 
of the afternoon. 

That night, when we met for dinner, we were naturally a little 
self-conscious. Reid probably felt it. "Look here," he said when 
we had finished eating, "would either of you mind if we skipped 
the movie tonight?" 

"It's O.K. by me," said Logan. "Shall we go to Chancey's?" 

"No," said Reid. "I want you to come somewhere where we 
can talk. Come up to my place." 

"Just as you like," said I. "It's not necessary." 

"Yes it is," said Reid. "We may as well get it over." 

He was in a painfully nervous state, so we consented and went 
up to his apartment, where we had never been before. It was a 
single room with a pull-down bed and a bathroom and kitchenette 
opening off it. Though Reid had now been in town over two 
months, there was absolutely no sign that he was living there at 
all. It might have been a room hired for the uncomfortable con- 
versation of this one night. 

We sat down, but Reid immediately got up again and stood 
between us, in front of the imitation fireplace. 

"I should like to say nothing about what happened today," he 
began. "I should like to ignore it and let it be forgotten. But it 
can't be forgotten. 

"It's no use telling me you won't think about it," said he. "Of 
course you'll think about it. Everyone did back there. The firm 
sent me to Cleveland. It became known there, too. Everyone was 
thinking about it, whispering about it, wondering. 

"You see, it would be rather more exciting if the fellow was 
guilty after all, wouldn't it? 

"In a way, I'm glad this has come out. With you two, I mean. 
Most people — I don't want them to know anything. You two — 
you've been decent to me — I want you to know all about it. AIL 



[6] The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It 

"I came up from Georgia to Pittsburgh, was there for ten years 
with the Walls Tyman people. While there I met — I met Earle 
Wilson. He came from Georgia, too, and we became very great 
friends. I've never been one to go about much. Earle was not only 
my best friend, he was almost my only friend. 

"Very well. Earle's job with our company was better than mine; 
he was able to afford a small house just beyond the fringe of the 
town. I used to drive out there two or three evenings a week. We 
spent the evenings very quietly. I want you to understand that I 
was quite at home in the house. There was no host-and-guest at- 
mosphere about it. If I felt sleepy, I'd make no bones about going 
upstairs and stretching out on a bed and taking a nap for half an 
hour. There's nothing so extraordinary about that, is there?" 

"No, nothing extraordinary about that," said Logan. 

"Some people seemed to think there was," said Reid. "Well, one 
night I went out there after work. We ate, we sat about a bit, we 
played a game of checkers. He mixed a couple of drinks, then I 
mixed a couple. Normal enough, isn't it?" 

"It certainly is," said Logan. 

"I was tired," said Reid. "I felt heavy. I said I'd go upstairs and 
stretch out for half an hour. That always puts me right. So I went 
up. 

"I sleep heavily, very heavily, for half an hour, then I'm all 
right. This time I seemed to be dreaming, a sort of nightmare. I 
thought I was in an air raid somewhere, and heard Earle's voice 
calling me, but I didn't wake, not till the usual half -hour was up, 
anyway. 

"I went downstairs. The room below was dark. I called out to 
Earle and started across from the stairs toward the light switch. 
Halfway across, I tripped over something — it turned out to be the 
floor lamp, which had fallen over, and I went down, and I fell flat 
upon him. 

"I knew it was him. I got up and found the light. He was lying 
there. He looked as if he had been attacked by a madman. He was 
cut to pieces, almost. God! 

"I got hold of the phone at once and called the police. Naturally. 
While they were coming, I looked round. But first of all I just 
walked about, dazed. It seems I must have gone up into the bed- 
room again. I've got no recollection of that, but they found a smear 



The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It [7] 

of blood on the pillow. Of course, I was covered with it, absolutely 
covered; I had fallen on him. You can understand a man being 
dazed, can't you? You can understand him going upstairs, even, 
and not remembering it? Can't you?" 

"I certainly can," said Logan. 

"It seems very natural," said I. 

"They thought they had trapped me over that," said Reid. 
"They said so to my face. The idiots! Well, I remember looking 
round, and I saw what it had been done with. Earle had a great 
equipment of cutlery in his kitchen. One of our firm's subsidiaries 
was in that line. One of the things was a meat cleaver, the sort of 
thing you see usually in a butcher's shop. It was there on the 
carpet. 

"Well, the police came. I told them all I could. Earle was a quiet 
fellow. He had no enemies. Does anyone have that sort of enemy? 
I thought it must be some maniac. Nothing was missing. It wasn't 
robbery, unless some half-crazy tramp had got in and been too 
scared in the end to take anything. 

"Whoever it was had made a very clean getaway. Too clean for 
the police. And too clean for me. They looked for fingerprints, and 
they couldn't find any. 

"They have an endless routine in this sort of thing. I won't bore 
you with every single detail. It seemed their routine wasn't good 
enough — the fellow was too clever for them. But of course they 
wanted an arrest. So they indicted me. 

"Their case was nothing but a negative one. God knows how 
they thought it could succeed. Perhaps they didn't think so. But, 
you see, if they could build up a strong presumptive case, and I 
only got off because of a hung jury — well, that's different from 
having to admit they couldn't find hair or hide of the real mur- 
derer. 

"What was the evidence against me? That they couldn't find 
traces of anyone else! That's evidence of their own damned ineffi- 
ciency, that's all. Does a man murder his best friend for nothing? 
Could they find any reason, any motive? They were trying to find 
some woman first of all. They have the mentality of a ten-cent 
magazine. They combed our money affairs. They even tried to 
smell out some Fifth-Column tieup. Oh, God, if you knew what 
it was to be confronted with faces out of a comic strip and with 



[ 8 ] The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It 

minds that match the faces! If ever you are charged with murder, 
hang yourself in your cell the first night. 

"In the end they settled on our game of checkers. Our poor, 
harmless game of checkers! We talked all the while we were play- 
ing, you know, and sometimes even forgot whose turn it was to 
move next. I suppose there are people who can go berserk in a 
dispute over a childish game, but to me that's something utterly 
incomprehensible. As a matter of fact, I remember we had to 
start this game over again, not once but twice — first when Earle 
mixed the drinks, and then when I mixed them. Each time we 
forgot who was to move. However, they fixed on that. They had 
to find some shadow of a motive, and that was the best they could 
do. 

"Of course, my lawyer tore it to shreds. By the mercy of God 
there'd been quite a craze at the works for playing checkers at 
lunchtime. So he soon found half a dozen men to swear that neither 
Earle nor I ever played the game seriously enough to get het up 
about it. 

"They had no other motive to put forward. Absolutely none. 
Both our lives were simple, ordinary, humdrum, and open as a 
book. What was their case? They couldn't find what they were 
paid to find. For that, they proposed to send a man to the death 
cell. Can you beat that?" 

"It sounds pretty damnable," said I. 

"Yes," said he passionately. "Damnable is the word. They got 
what they were after — the jury voted nine to three for acquittal, 
which saved the faces of the police. There was plenty of room for 
a hint that they were on the right track all the time. You can 
imagine what my life has been since! If you ever get into that sort 
of mess, my friends, hang yourselves the first night, in your cell." 

"Don't talk like that," said Logan. "Look here, you've had a 
bad time. Damned bad. But what the hell? It's over. You're here 
now." 

"And we're here," said I. "If that helps any." 

"Helps?" said he. "God, if you could ever guess how it helped! 
I'll never be able to tell you. I'm no good at that sort of thing. 
See, I drag you here, the only human beings who've treated me 
decently, and I pour all this stuff out and don't offer you a drink, 
even. Never mind, I'll give you one now — a drink you'll like." 



The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It [9] 

"I could certainly swallow a highball," said Logan. 

"You shall have something better than that," said Reid, moving 
toward the kitchenette. "We have a little specialty down in our 
corner of Georgia. Only it's got to be fixed properly. Wait just a 
minute." 

He disappeared through the door, and we heard corks being 
drawn and a great clatter of pouring and mixing. While this went 
on, he was still talking through the doorway. "I'm glad I brought 
you up here," he said. "I'm glad I put the whole thing to you. You 
don't know what it means — to be believed, understood, by God! 
I feel I'm alive again." 

He emerged with three brimming glasses on a tray. "Try this," 
he said proudly. 

"To the days ahead!" said Logan, as we raised our glasses. 

We drank and raised our eyebrows in appreciation. The drink 
seemed to be a sort of variant of sherry flip, with a heavy sprin- 
kling of nutmeg. 

"You like it?" cried Reid eagerly. "There's not many people 
know the recipe for that drink, and fewer still can make it well. 
There are one or two bastard versions which some damned fools 
mix up — a disgrace to Georgia. I could — I could pour the mess 
over their heads. Wait a minute. You're men of discernment. Yes, 
by God, you are! You shall decide for yourselves." 

With that, he darted back into the kitchenette and rattled his 
bottles more furiously than before, still talking to us disjointedly, 
praising the orthodox version of his drink, and damning all imita- 
tions. 

"Now, here you are," said he, appearing with the tray loaded 
with drinks very much like the first but rather differently gar- 
nished. "These abortions have mace and ginger on the top instead 
of nutmeg. Take thefn. Drink them. Spit them out on the carpet 
if you want to. I'll mix some more of the real thing to take the 
taste out of your mouth. Just try them. Just tell me what you 
think of a barbarian who could insist that that was a Georgian 
flip. Go on. Tell me." 

We sipped. There was no considerable difference. However, we 
replied as was expected of us. 

"What do you think, Logan?" said I. "The first has it, beyond 
doubt." 



[JO] The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It 

"Beyond doubt," said Logan. "The first is the real thing." 
"Yes," said Reid, his face livid and his eyes blazing like live 

coals. "And that is hogwash. The man who calls that a Georgian 

flip is not fit to — not fit to mix bootblacking. It hasn't the nutmeg. 

The touch of nutmeg makes it." 

He put out both his hands to lift the tray, and his eyes fell on 

them. He sat very still, staring at them. 



!r^!r^^ DE MORTUIS ^S^S^S^^ 



DR. RANKIN WAS A LARGE AND RAWBONED MAN ON WHOM THE NEW- 

est suit at once appeared outdated, like a suit in a photograph of 
twenty years ago. This was due to the squareness and flatness of 
his torso, which might have been put together by a manufacturer 
of packing cases. His face also had a wooden and a roughly con- 
structed look; his hair was wiglike and resentful of the comb. He 
had those huge and clumsy hands which can be an asset to a doctor 
in a small upstate town where people still retain a rural relish for 
paradox, thinking that the more apelike the paw, the more precise 
it can be in the delicate business of a tonsillectomy. 

This conclusion was perfectly justified in the case of Dr. Rankin. 
For example, on this particular fine morning, though his task was 
nothing more ticklish than the cementing over of a large patch on 
his cellar floor, he managed those large and clumsy hands with all 
the unflurried certainty of one who would never leave a sponge 
within or create an unsightly scar without. 

The Doctor surveyed his handiwork from all angles. He added 
a touch here and a touch there till he had achieved a smoothness 
altogether professional. He swept up a few last crumbs of soil and 
dropped them into the furnace. He paused before putting away 
the pick and shovel he had been using, and found occasion for yet 
another artistic sweep of his trowel, which made the new surface 
precisely flush with the surrounding floor. At this moment of su- 
preme concentration the porch door upstairs slammed with the 
report of a minor piece of artillery, which, appropriately enough, 
caused Dr. Rankin to jump as if he had been shot. 

The Doctor lifted a frowning face and an attentive ear. He heard 
two pairs of heavy feet clump across the resonant floor of the 
porch. He heard the house door opened and the visitors enter the 
hall, with which his cellar communicated by a short flight of steps. 
He heard whistling and then the voices of Buck and Bud crying, 
"Doc! Hi, Doc! They're biting!" 

[12] 



De Mortuis ... [13] 



Whether the Doctor was not inclined for fishing that day, or 
whether, like others of his large and heavy type, he experienced 
an especially sharp, unsociable reaction on being suddenly startled, 
or whether he was merely anxious to finish undisturbed the job in 
hand and proceed to more important duties, he did not respond 
immediately to the inviting outcry of his friends. Instead, he lis- 
tened while it ran its natural course, dying down at last into a 
puzzled and fretful dialogue. 

"I guess he's out." 

"Ill write a note — say we're at the creek, to come on down." 

"We could tell Irene." 

"But she's not here, either. You'd think she'd be around." 

"Ought to be, by the look of the place." 

"You said it, Bud. Just look at this table. You could write your 
name — " 

"Sh-h-h! Look!" 

Evidently the last speaker had noticed that the cellar door was 
ajar and that a light was shining below. Next moment the door 
was pushed wide open and Bud and Buck looked down. 

"Why, Doc! There you are!" 

"Didn't you hear us yelling?" 

The Doctor, not too pleased at what he had overheard, never- 
theless smiled his rather wooden smile as his two friends made their 
way down the steps. "I thought I heard someone," he said. 

"We was bawling our heads off," Buck said. "Thought nobody 
was home. Where's Irene?" 

"Visiting," said the Doctor. "She's gone visiting." 

"Hey, what goes on?" said Bud. "What are you doing? Burying 
one of your patients, or what?" 

"Oh, there's been water seeping up through the floor," said the 
Doctor. "I figured it might be some spring opened up or some- 
thing." 

"You don't say!" said Bud, assuming instantly the high ethical 
standpoint of the realtor. "Gee, Doc, I sold you this property. 
Don't say I fixed you up with a dump where there's an under- 
ground spring." 

"There was water," said the Doctor. 

"Yes, but, Doc, you can look on that geological map the Kiwanis 
Club got up. There's not a better section of subsoil in the town." 



[14] De Mortuis 



"Looks like he sold you a pup," said Buck, grinning. 

"No," said Bud. "Look. When the Doc came here he was green. 
You'll admit he was green. The things he didn't know!" 

"He bought Ted Webber's jalopy," said Buck. 

"He'd have bought the Jessop place if I'd let him," said Bud. 
"But I wouldn't give him a bum steer." 

"Not the poor, simple city slicker from Poughkeepsie," said 
Buck. 

"Some people would have taken him," said Bud. "Maybe some 
people did. Not me. I recommended this property. He and Irene 
moved straight in as soon as they was married. I wouldn't have put 
the Doc on to a dump where there'd be a spring under the founda- 
tions." 

"Oh, forget it," said the Doctor, embarrassed by this conscien- 
tiousness. "I guess it was just the heavy rains." 

"By gosh!" Buck said, glancing at the besmeared point of the 
pickaxe. "You certainly went deep enough. Right down into the 
clay, huh?" 

"That's four feet down, the clay," Bud said. 

"Eighteen inches," said the Doctor. 

"Four feet," said Bud. "I can show you on the map." 

"Come on. No arguments," said Buck. "How's about it, Doc? 
An hour or two at the creek, eh? They're biting." 

"Can't do it, boys," said the Doctor. "I've got to see a patient or 
two." 

"Aw, live and let live, Doc," Bud said. "Give 'em a chance 
to get better. Are you going to depopulate the whole darn 
town?" 

The Doctor looked down, smiled, and muttered, as he always 
did when this particular jest was trotted out. "Sorry, boys," he 
said. "I can't make it." 

"Well," said Bud, disappointed, "I suppose we'd better get 
along. How's Irene?" 

"Irene?" said the Doctor. "Never better. She's gone visiting. 
Albany. Got the eleven-o'clock train." 

"Eleven o'clock?" said Buck. "For Albany?" 

"Did I say Albany?" said the Doctor. "Watertown, I meant." 

"Friends in Watertown?" Buck asked. 

"Mrs. Slater," said the Doctor. "Mr. and Mrs. Slater. Lived 



De Mortuis ... [15] 



next door to 'em when she was a kid, Irene said, over on Sycamore 
Street." 

"Slater?" said Bud. "Next door to Irene. No." 

"Oh, yes," said the Doctor. "She was telling me all about them 
last night. She got a letter. Seems this Mrs. Slater looked after her 
when her mother was in the hospital one time." 

"No," said Bud. 

"That's what she told me," said the Doctor. "Of course, it was 
a good many years ago." 

"Look, Doc," said Buck. "Bud and I were raised in this town. 
We've known Irene's folks all our lives. We were in and out of 
their house all the time. There was never anybody next door called 
Slater." 

"Perhaps," said the Doctor, "she married again, this woman. 
Perhaps it was a different name." 

Bud shook his head. 

"What time did Irene go to the station?" Buck asked. 

"Oh, about a quarter of an hour ago," said the Doctor. 

"You didn't drive her?" said Buck. 

"She walked," said the Doctor. 

"We came down Main Street," Buck said. "We didn't meet her." 

"Maybe she walked across the pasture," said the Doctor. 

"That's a tough walk with a suitcase," said Buck. 

"She just had a couple of things in a little bag," said the Doctor. 

Bud was still shaking his head. 

Buck looked at Bud, and then at the pick, at the new, damp 
cement on the floor. "Jesus Christ!" he said. 

"Oh, God, Doc!" Bud said. "A guy like you!" 

"What in the name of heaven are you two bloody fools think- 
ing?" asked the Doctor. "What are you trying to say?" 

"A spring!" said Bud. "I ought to have known right away it 
wasn't any spring." 

The Doctor looked at his cement-work, at the pick, at the 
large worried faces of his two friends. His own face turned livid. 
"Am I crazy?" he said. "Or are you? You suggest that I've — 
that Irene — my wife — oh, go on! Get out! Yes, go and get the 
sheriff. Tell him to come here and start digging. You — get out!" 

Bud and Buck looked at each other, shifted their feet, and stood 
still again. 



[16] De Mortuis 



"Go on," said the Doctor. 

"I don't know," said Bud. 

"It's not as if he didn't have the provocation," Buck said. 

"God knows," Bud said. 

"God knows," Buck said. "You know. I know. The whole town 
knows. But try telling it to a jury." 

The Doctor put his hand to his head. "What's that?" he said. 
"What is it? Now what are you saying? What do you mean?" 

"If this ain't being on the spot!" said Buck. "Doc, you can see 
how it is. It takes some thinking. We've been friends right from 
the start. Damn good friends." 

"But we've got to think," said Bud. "It's serious. Provocation 
or not, there's a law in the land. There's such a thing as being an 
accomplice." 

"You were talking about provocation," said the Doctor. 

"You're right," said Buck. "And you're our friend. And if ever it 
could be called justified — " 

"We've got to fix this somehow," said Bud. 

"Justified?" said the Doctor. 

"You were bound to get wised up sooner or later," said Buck. 

"We could have told you," said Bud. "Only— what the hell?" 

"We could," said Buck. "And we nearly did. Five years ago. 
Before ever you married her. You hadn't been here six months, 
but we sort of cottoned to you. Thought of giving you a hint. 
Spoke about it. Remember, Bud?" 

Bud nodded. "Funny," he said. "I came right out in the open 
about that Jessop property. I wouldn't let you buy that, Doc. But 
getting married, that's something else again. We could have told 
you." 

"We're that much responsible," Buck said. 

"I'm fifty," said the Doctor. "I suppose it's pretty old for Irene." 

"If you was Johnny Weissmuller at the age of twenty-one, it 
wouldn't make any difference," said Buck. 

"I know a lot of people think she's not exactly a perfect wife," 
said the Doctor. "Maybe she's not. She's young. She's full of life." 

"Oh, skip it!" said Buck sharply, looking at the raw cement. 
"Skip it, Doc, for God's sake." 

The Doctor brushed his hand across his face. "Not everybody 



De Mortuis ... [17] 



wants the same thing," he said. "I'm a sort of dry fellow. I don't 
open up very easily. Irene — you'd call her gay." 

"You said it," said Buck. 

"She's no housekeeper," said the Doctor. "I know it. But that's 
not the only thing a man wants. She's enjoyed herself." 

"Yeah," said Buck. "She did." 

"That's what I love," said the Doctor. "Because I'm not that 
way myself. She's not very deep, mentally. All right. Say she's 
stupid. I don't care. Lazy. No system. Well, I've got plenty of 
system. She's enjoyed herself. It's beautiful. It's innocent. Like a 
child." 

"Yes. If that was all," Buck said. 

"But," said the Doctor, turning his eyes full on him, "you seem 
to know there was more." 

"Everybody knows it," said Buck. 

"A decent, straightforward guy comes to a place like this and 
marries the town floozy," Bud said bitterly. "And nobody '11 tell 
him. Everybody just watches." 

"And laughs," said Buck. "You and me, Bud, as well as the rest." 

"We told her to watch her step," said Bud. "We warned her." 

"Everybody warned her," said Buck. "But people get fed up. 
When it got to truck-drivers — " 

"It was never us, Doc," said Bud, earnestly. "Not after you 
came along, anyway." 

"The town'll be on your side," said Buck. 

"That won't mean much when the case comes to trial in the 
county seat," said Bud. 

"Oh!" cried the Doctor, suddenly. "What shall I do? What shall 
I do?" 

"It's up to you, Bud," said Buck. "I can't turn him in." 

"Take it easy, Doc," said Bud. "Calm down. Look, Buck. When 
we came in here the street was empty, wasn't it?" 

"I guess so," said Buck. "Anyway, nobody saw us come down 
cellar." 

"And we haven't been down," Bud said, addressing himself 
forcefully to the Doctor. "Get that, Doc? We shouted upstairs, 
hung around a minute or two, and cleared out. But we never 
came down into this cellar." 



[18] De Mortuis 



"I wish you hadn't," the Doctor said heavily. 

"All you have to do is say Irene went out for a walk and never 
came back," said Buck. "Bud and I can swear we saw her headed 
out of town with a fellow in a tan roadster. Everybody '11 believe 
that, all right. We'll fix it. But later. Now we'd better scram." 

"And remember. We was never down here," Bud said. "So 
long." 

Buck and Bud ascended the steps, moving with a rather absurd 
degree of caution. "You'd better get that . . . that thing covered 
up," Buck said over his shoulder. 

Left alone, the Doctor sat down on an empty box, holding his 
head with both hands. He was still sitting like this when the porch 
door slammed again. This time he did not start. He listened. The 
house door opened and closed. A voice cried, "Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo! 
I'm back." 

The Doctor rose slowly to his feet. "I'm down here, Irene!" he 
called. 

The cellar door opened. A young woman stood at the head of 
the steps. "Can you beat it?" she said. "I missed the damn train." 

"Oh!" said the Doctor. "Did you come back across the field?" 

"Yes, like a fool," she said. "I could have hitched a ride and 
caught the train up the line. Only I didn't think. If you'd run me 
over to the junction, I could still make it." 

"Maybe," said the Doctor. "Did you meet anyone coming 
back?" 

"Not a soul," she said. "Aren't you finished with that old job 
yet?" 

"I'm afraid I'll have to take it all up again," said the Doctor. 
"Come down here, my dear, and I'll show you." 



!r^!r^^^ WET SA TURD A T !r^!r^^ 



IT WAS JULY. IN THE SPRAWLING HOUSE THEY WERE IMPRISONED 

by the swish and the gurgle and all the hundred sounds of rain. 
They were in the drawing room, behind four tall and weeping 
windows, in a lake of damp and faded chintz. 

This house, ill-kept and unprepossessing, was necessary to Mr. 
Princey, who detested his wife, his daughter, and his hulking son. 
His life was to walk through the village, touching his hat, not 
smiling. His cold pleasure was to recapture snapshot memories of 
the infinitely remote summers of his childhood — coming into the 
orangery and finding his lost wooden horse, the tunnel in the box 
hedge and the little square of light at the end of it. But now all 
this was threatened — his austere pride of position in the village, his 
passionate attachment to the house — and all because Millicent, 
his cloddish daughter Millicent, had done this shocking and in- 
credibly stupid thing. Mr. Princey turned from her in revulsion 
and spoke to his wife. 

"They'd send her to a lunatic asylum," he said. "A criminal- 
lunatic asylum. We should have to move. It would be impossible." 

His daughter began to shake again. "I'll kill myself," she said. 

"Be quiet," said Mr. Princey. "We have very little time. No 
time for nonsense. I intend to deal with this." He called'to his son, 
who stood looking out of the window. "George, come here. Listen, 
how far did you get with your medicine before they threw you out 
as hopeless?" 

"You know as well as I do," said George. 

"Do you know enough — did they drive enough into your head 
for you to be able to guess what a competent doctor could tell 
about such awound?" 

"Well, it's a— it's a knock or blow." 

"If a tile fell from the roof? Or a piece of the coping?" 

"Well, guv'nor, you see, it's like this — " 

"Is it possible?" 

"No." 

"Why not?" 

[20] 



Wet Saturday [ 21 ] 



"Oh, because she hit him several times." 

"I can't stand it," said Mrs. Princey. 

"You have got to stand it, my dear," said her husband. "And 
keep that hysterical note out of your voice. It might be overheard. 
We are talking about the weather. If he fell down the well, George, 
striking his head several times?" 

"I really don't know, guv'nor." 

"He'd have had to hit the sides several times in thirty or forty 
feet, and at the correct angles. No. I'm afraid not. We must go 
over it all again. Millicent." 

"No! No!" 

"Millicent, we must go over it all again. Perhaps you have for- 
gotten something. One tiny irrelevant detail may save or ruin us. 
Particularly you, Millicent. You don't want to be put in an asy- 
lum, do you? Or be hanged? They might hang you, Millicent. You 
must stop that shaking. You must keep your voice quiet. We are 
talking of the weather. Now." 

"I can't. I . . . I . . ." 

"Be quiet, child. Be quiet." He put his long, cold face very near 
to his daughter's. He found himself horribly revolted by her. Her 
features were thick, her jaw heavy, her whole figure repellently 
powerful. "Answer me," he said. "You were in the stable?" 

"Yes." 

"One moment, though. Who knew you were in love with this 
wretched curate?" 

"No one. I've never said a — " 

"Don't worry," said George. "The whole god-damned village 
knows. They've been sniggering about it in the Plough for three 
years past." 

"Likely enough," said Mr. Princey. "Likely enough. What filth!" 
He made as if to wipe something off the backs of his hands. "Well, 
now, we continue. You were in the stable?" 

"Yes." 

"You were putting the croquet set into its box?" 

"Yes." 

"You heard someone crossing the yard?" 

"Yes." 

"It was Withers?" 

"Yes." 

"So you called him?" 



[22] Wet Saturday 



"Yes." 

"Loudly? Did you call him loudly? Could anyone have heard?" 

"No, Father. I'm sure not. I didn't call him. He saw me as I 
went to the door. He just waved his hand and came over." 

"How can I find out from you whether there was anyone about? 
Whether he could have been seen?" 

"I'm sure not, Father. I'm quite sure." 

"So you both went into the stable?" 

"Yes. It was raining hard." 

"What did he say?" 

"He said 'Hullo, Milly.' And to excuse him coming in the back 
way, but he'd set out to walk over to Lyston." 

"Yes." 

"And he said, passing the park, he'd seen the house and sud- 
denly thought of me, and he thought he'd just look in for a minute, 
just to tell me something. He said he was so happy, he wanted me 
to share it. He'd heard from the Bishop he was to have the vicar- 
age. And it wasn't only that. It meant he could marry. And he 
began to stutter. And I thought he meant me." 

"Don't tell me what you thought. Exactly what he said. Noth- 
ing else/' 

"Well ... Oh dear!" 

"Don't cry. It is a luxury you cannot afford. Tell me." 

"He said no. He said it wasn't me. It's Ella Brangwyn-Davies. 
And he was sorry. And all that. Then he went to go." 

"And then?" 

"I went mad. He turned his back. I had the winning post of the 
croquet set in my hand — " 

"Did you shout or scream? I mean, as you hit him?" 

"No. I'm sure I didn't." 

"Did he? Come on. Tell me.'* 

"No, Father." 

"And then?" 

"I threw it down. I came straight into the house. That's all. I 
wish I were dead!" 

"And you met none of the servants. No one will go into the 
stable. You see, George, he probably told people he was going to 
Lyston. Certainly no one knows he came here. He might have 
been attacked in the woods. We must consider every detail. . . . 
A curate, with his head battered in — " 



Wet Saturday [23] 



"Don't, Father!" cried Millicent. 

"Do you want to be hanged? A curate, with his head battered in, 
found in the woods. Who'd want to kill Withers?" 

There was a tap on the door, which opened immediately. It was 
little Captain Smollett, who never stood on ceremony. "Who'd 
kill Withers?" said he. "I would, with pleasure. How d'you do, 
Mrs. Princey. I walked right in." 

"He heard you, Father," moaned Millicent. 

"My dear, we can all have our litle joke," said her father. "Don't 
pretend to be shocked. A little theoretical curate-killing, Smollett. 
In these days we talk nothing but thrillers." 

"Parsonicide," said Captain Smollett. "Justifiable parsonicide. 
Have you heard about Ella Brangwyn-Davies? I shall be laughed 
at." 

"Why?" said Mr. Princey. "Why should you be laughed at?" 

"Had a shot in that direction myself," said Smollett, with care- 
ful sang-froid. "She half said yes, too. Hadn't you heard? She told 
most people. Now it'll look as if I got turned down for a white 
rat in a dog collar." 

"Too bad!" said Mr. Princey. 

"Fortune of war," said the little Captain. 

"Sit down," said Mr. Princey. "Mother, Millicent, console Cap- 
tain Smollett with your best light conversation. George and I have 
something to look to. We shall be back in a minute or two, Smol- 
lett. Come, George." 

It was actually five minutes before Mr. Princey and his son 
returned. 

"Smollett," said Mr. Princey, "will you come round to the stable 
for a moment? There's something I want to show you." 

They went into the stable yard. The buildings were now unused 
except as odd sheds. No one ever went there. Captain Smollett 
entered, George followed him, Mr. Princey came last. As he closed 
the door he took up a gun which stood behind it. "Smollett," said 
he, "we have come out to shoot a rat which George heard squeak- 
ing under that tub. Now, you must listen to me very carefully or 
you will be shot by accident. I mean that." 

Smollett looked at him. "Very well," said he. "Go on." 

"A very tragic happening has taken place this afternoon," said 
Mr. Princey. "It will be even more tragic unless it is smoothed 



[24] Wet Saturday 



"Oh?" said Smollett. 

"You heard me ask," said Mr. Princey, "who would kill Withers. 
You heard Millicent make a comment, an unguarded comment." 

"Well?" said Smollett. "What of it?" 

"Very little," said Mr. Princey. "Unless you heard that Withers 
had met a violent end this very afternoon. And that, my dear 
Smollett, is what you are going to hear." 

"Have you killed him?" cried Smollett. 

"Millicent has," said Mr. Princey. 

"Hell!" said Smollett. 

"It is hell," said Mr. Princey. "You would have remembered — 
and guessed." 

"Maybe," said Smollett. "Yes. I suppose I should." 

"Therefore," said Mr. Princey, "you constitute a problem." 

"Why did she kill him?" said Smollett. 

"It is one of these disgusting things," said Mr. Princey. "Piti- 
able, too. She deluded herself that he was in love with her." 

"Oh, of course," said Smollett. 

"And he told her about the Brangwyn-Davies girl." 

"I see," said Smollett. 

"I have no wish," said Mr. Princey, "that she should be proved 
either a lunatic or a murderess. I could hardly live here after 
that." 

"I suppose not," said Smollett. 

"On the other hand," said Mr. Princey, "you know about it." 

"Yes," said Smollett. "I am wondering if I could keep my mouth 
shut. If I promised you — " 

"I am wondering if I could believe you," said Mr. Princey. 

"If I promised," said Smollett. 

"If things went smoothly," said Mr. Princey. "But not if there 
was any sort of suspicion, any questioning. You would be afraid 
of being an accessory." 

"I don't know," said Smollett. 

"I do," said Mr. Princey. "What are we going to do?" 

"I can't see anything else," said Smollett. "You'd never be fool 
enough to do me in. You can't get rid of two corpses." 

"I regard it," said Mr. Princey, "as a better risk than the other. 
It could be an accident. Or you and Withers could both disappear. 
There are possibilities in that." 

"Listen," said Smollett. "You can't—" 



Wet Saturday [25] 



"Listen," said Mr. Princey. "There may be a way out. There is 
a way out, Smollett. You gave me the idea yourself." 

"Did I?" said Smollett. "What?" 

"You said you would kill Withers," said Mr. Princey. "You have 
a motive." 

"I was joking," said Smollett. 

"You are always joking," said Mr. Princey. "People think there 
must be something behind it. Listen, Smollett, I can't trust you, 
you must trust me. Or I will kill you now, in the next minute. I 
mean that. You can choose between dying and living." 

"Go on," said Smollett. 

"There is a sewer here," said Mr. Princey, speaking fast and 
forcefully. "That is where I am going to put Withers. No outsider 
knows he has come up here this afternoon. No one will ever look 
there for him unless you tell them. You must give me evidence 
that you have murdered Withers." 

"Why?" said Smollett. 

"So that I shall be dead sure that you will never open your lips 
on the matter," said Mr. Princey. 

"What evidence?" said Smollett. 

"George," said Mr. Princey, "hit him in the face, hard." 

"Good God!" said Smollett. 

"Again," said Mr. Princey. "Don't bruise your knuckles." 

"Oh!" said Smollett. 

"I'm sorry," said Mr. Princey. "There must be traces of a strug- 
gle between you and Withers. Then it will not be altogether safe 
for you to go to the police." 

"Why won't you take my word?" said Smollett. 

"I will when we've finished," said Mr. Princey. "George, get that 
croquet post. Take your handkerchief to it. As I told you. Smol- 
lett, you'll just grasp the end of this croquet post. I shall shoot 
you if you don't." 

"Oh, hell," said Smollett. "All right." 

"Pull two hairs out of his head, George," said Mr. Princey, "and 
remember what I told you to do with them. Now, Smollett, you 
take that bar and raise the big flagstone with the ring in it. Withers 
is in the next stall. You've got to drag him through and dump 
him in." 

"I won't touch him," said Smollett. 

"Stand back, George," said Mr. Princey, raising his gun. 



[26] Wet Saturday 



"Wait a minute," cried Smollett. "Wait a minute." He did as he 
was told. 

Mr. Princey wiped his brow. "Look here," said he. "Everything 
is perfectly safe. Remember, no one knows that Withers came 
here. Everyone thinks he walked over to Lyston. That's five miles 
of country to search. They'll never look in our sewer. Do you see 
how safe it is?" 

"I suppose it is," said Smollett. 

"Now come into the house," said Mr. Princey. "We shall never 
get that rat." 

They went into the house. The maid was bringing tea into the 
drawing room. "See, my dear," said Mr. Princey to his wife, "we 
went to the stable to shoot a rat and we found Captain Smollett. 
Don't be offended, my dear fellow." 

"You must have walked up the back drive," said Mrs. Princey. 

"Yes. Yes. That was it," said Smollett in some confusion. 

"You've cut your lip," said George, handing him a cup of tea. 

"I ... I just knocked it." 

"Shall I tell Bridget to bring some iodine?" said Mrs. Princey. 
The maid looked up, waiting. 

"Don't trouble, please," said Smollett. "It's nothing." 

"Very well, Bridget," said Mrs. Princey. "That's all." 

"Smollett is very kind," said Mr. Princey. "He knows all our 
trouble. We can rely on him. We have his word." 

"Oh, have we, Captain Smollett?" cried Mrs. Princey. "You are 
good." 

"Don't worry, old fellow," Mr. Princey said. "They'll never find 
anything." 

Pretty soon Smollett took his leave. Mrs. Princey pressed his 
hand very hard. Tears came into her eyes. All three of them 
watched him go down the drive. Then Mr. Princey spoke very 
earnestly to his wife for a few minutes and the two of them went 
upstairs and spoke still more earnestly to Millicent. Soon after, 
the rain having ceased, Mr. Princey took a stroll round the stable 
yard. 

He came back and went to the telephone. "Put me through to 
Lyston police station," said he. "Quickly . . . Hullo, is that the 
police station? This is Mr. Princey, of Abbott's Laxton. I'm afraid 
something rather terrible has happened up here. Can you send 
someone at once?" 



?jil?j?UjfjUjf»UjfjUff^ LITTLE MEMENTO !!^!^^^ 



A YOUNG MAN WHO WAS WALKING FAST CAME OUT OF A DEEP LANE 

onto a wide hilltop space, where there was a hamlet clustered about 
a green. The setting encompassed a pond, ducks, the Waggoner 
Inn, with white paint and swinging sign; in fact, all the fresh, clean, 
quiet, ordinary appurtenances of an upland Somerset hamlet. 

The road went on, and so did the young man, over to the very 
brink of the upland, where a white gate gave upon a long garden 
well furnished with fruit trees, and at the end of it a snug little 
house sheltered by a coppice and enjoying a view over the vast 
vale below. An old man of astonishingly benevolent appearance 
was pottering about in the garden. He looked up as the hiker, Eric 
Gaskell, approached his gate. 

"Good morning," said he. "A fine September morning!" 

"Good morning," said Eric Gaskell. 

"I have had my telescope out this morning," said the old man. 
"I don't often get down the hill these days. The way back is a little 
too steep for me. Still, I have my view and my telescope. I think 
I know all that goes on." 

"Well, that's very nice," said Eric. 

"It is," said the old man. "You are Mr. Gaskell?" 

"Yes," said Eric. "I know. We met at the vicarage." 

"We did," said the old man. "You often take your walk this way. 
I see you go by. Today I thought, 'Now this is the day for a little 
chat with young Mr. Gaskell!' Come in." 

"Thanks," said Eric. "I will, for a spell." 

"And how," said the old man, opening his gate, "do you and Mrs. 
Gaskell like Somerset?" 

"Enormously," said Eric 

"My housekeeper tells me," said the old man, "that you come 
from the East Coast. Very bracing. Her niece is your little maid. 
You don't find it too dull here? Too backward? Too old-fash- 
ioned?" 

[28] 



Little Memento [29] 



"We like that part of it best," said Eric, sitting with his host on 
a white seat under one of the apple trees. 

"In these days," said the old man, "young people like old- 
fashioned things. That's a change from my day. Now most of us 
who live about here are old codgers, you know. There's Captain 
Felton, of course, but the Vicar, the Admiral, Mr. Coperus, and the 
rest — all old codgers. You don't mind that?" 

"I like it," said Eric. 

"We have our hobbies," said the old man. "Coperus is by way of 
being an antiquarian; the Admiral has his roses." 

"And you have your telescope," said Eric. 

"Ah, my telescope," said the old man. "Yes, yes, I have my 
telescope. But my principal pastime — what I really plume myself 
on — is my museum." 

"You have a museum?" said Eric. 

"Yes, a museum," said the old man. "I should like you to have 
a look at it and tell me what you think." 

"I shall be delighted," said Eric. 

"Then come right in," said the old man, leading him toward the 
house. "I seldom have the chance of showing my collection to a 
newcomer. You must bring Mrs. Gaskell one of these days. Does 
she find enough entertainment in this quiet part, do you think?" 

"She loves it," said Eric. "She can't see too much of the country 
here. She drives out almost every day in her little red roadster." 

"All by herself," said the old man. "Does she like the house?" 

"Well, I don't know," said Eric. "She did when we chose it last 
spring. She liked it very much." 

"It is a very nice house," said the old man. 

"She finds it a little oppressive lately, I'm afraid," said Eric. 
"She says she has to get out to breathe." 

"It is the diiference in the air," said the old man. "After living 
on the East Coast." 

"Probably it's that," said Eric. 

By this time they had reached the front door. The old man ush- 
ered Eric in. They entered a very snug, trim little room, the furni- 
ture all well polished and everything meticulously arranged. "This 
is my little sitting room," the old man said. "My dining room, too, 
these days. The drawing room and the little study beyond I have 
given over entirely to my museum. Here we are." 



[30] Little Memento 



He threw open a door. Eric stepped in, looked around, and 
stared in amazement. He had been expecting the usual sort of 
thing: a neat cabinet or two with Roman coins, flint implements, 
a snake in alcohol, perhaps a stuffed bird or some eggs. But this 
room and the study, seen through the connecting doorway, were 
piled high with the most broken, battered, frowzy, gimcrack col- 
lection of junk he had ever seen in his life. What was oddest of all 
was that no item in this muddle of rubbish had even the excuse 
of a decent antiquity. It was as if several cartloads of miscellane- 
ous material had been collected from the village dump and spilled 
over the tables, sideboards, chairs, and floors of these two rooms. 

The old man observed Eric's astonishment with the greatest 
good humor. "You are thinking," said he, "that this collection is 
not the sort of thing one usually finds in a museum. You are right. 
But let me tell you, Mr. Gaskell, that every object here has a his- 
tory. These pieces are pebbles rolled and broken by the stream of 
time as it flows over the villages in our quiet little district. Taken 
together, they are a — a record. Here is a souvenir from the War: 
a telegram to the Bristows in Upper Medium, saying their boy was 
killed. It was years before I could get that from poor Mrs. Bristow. 
I gave her a pound for it." 

"Very interesting," said Eric. 

"That wheelbarrow," said the old man, pointing out a splintered 
wreck, "was the cause of two deaths. It rolled down a bank into 
the lane here just as a car was coming along. It was in all the 
papers. 'Local Tragedy.' " 

"Extraordinary!" said Eric. 

"It all makes up life," said the old man. "Here is a belt dropped 
by one of the Irish haymakers when they fought the gipsies. This 
hat belonged to the man who had Church Farm, near you. He won 
a prize in the Irish Sweep and drank himself to death, poor fellow! 
These are bricks from my gardener's cottage. It burned down, you 
know, and nobody knows how the fire started. This is a snake 
which somehow got into the church during service last year. Cap- 
tain Felton killed it. He's a very handsome man, don't you think?" 

"Yes. I suppose so. I hardly know him." 

"That's funny. I thought you and Mrs. Gaskell were very great 
friends of Captain Felton." 

"What gave you that idea?" 



Little Memento [ 31 ] 



"Perhaps it was just my fancy. Here is a rather sad exhibit. 
These horns came from a bull that Farmer Lawson put into my 
meadow. Somebody left the gate open; it got out and gored a man 
on the road." 

"We scarcely know Captain Felton," said Eric. "We met him 
when first we came here, but — " 

"Quite, quite," said the old man. "Here is an anonymous letter. 
We have them now and then in this district, as in most places. 
Mr. Coperus gave me this." 

"Are they usually well founded, the hints in your local brand of 
anonymous letters?" asked Eric. 

"I believe they are," said the old man. "Someone seems to know 
what goes on. Here's something that I fear won't last very long: 
a giant puffball from the graveyard. They grow larger there than 
anywhere else. Feel how light it is." 

He thrust it toward Eric. Eric had been fumbling with his pipe 
and tobacco pouch and now put them down to take the puffball. 
"Very light," said he. "Wonderful." 

"Come through here," cried the old man eagerly. "I was forget- 
ting my boots." Eric followed him, still carrying the giant fungus. 
"These boots," said the old man, "came off a tramp found drowned 
in a pond. That little pond near Captain Felton's house." 

"What does Felton do?" asked Eric. 

"He has an income," said the old man. "He amuses himself." 

"What is his amusement?" said Eric very casually. 

"I'm afraid," said the old man, with a twinkle, "that Captain 
Felton is rather one for the ladies." 

"Indeed?" said Eric. 

"There are stories," said the old man. "The Captain is very dis- 
creet, but — you know how it is. That big crystal up there — that 
was found in the quarry half a mile down our little road here. 
Well now, that quarry has been out of use for many years. You 
can drive into it from the road, and I'm told the Captain finds it a 
very secluded rendezvous. Dear me, I ought not to gossip. But the 
fact is the shepherd boys have been known to look over the top, 
and of course stories get round. People love to chuckle over such 
matters. I'm afraid that someday one of the worthy gentlemen 
whose domestic relations the Captain has, so to speak, trespassed 
upon will look over the top and — well, there are some very large 



[32] Little Memento 



stones lying about. Here is a cat I had stuffed. Now there is a very 
extraordinary story connected with this cat." 

"Tell me," said Eric, "is Felton here now or is he away?" 

"He's here," said the old man. "I saw his car go by only an hour 
ago. It's a red car. One doesn't often see a red car, though as a mat- 
ter of fact another red one came by just after his." 

"I — I think I must be off," said Eric. 

"Must you go?" said the old man. "I was just going to tell you 
about this unhappy cat." 

"Another time," said Eric. 

"Another time then," said the old man. "I shall always be de- 
lighted. Let me see you to the gate." 

Eric hurried through the gate. 

"You are not going back the way you came?" said the old man. 
"It's quicker." 

"No. No. I have to go round this way," said Eric. 

"That will lead you past the Captain's quarry," said the old 
man. "Well, goodbye. Come again soon." 

He watched Eric stride rapidly down the road and even climbed 
a bank to watch him farther. When he saw him leave the road and 
strike over the face of the down, toward the upper lip of the quarry, 
he went placidly back to his museum. 

There he took up Eric's pipe and tobacco pouch and fondled 
them with infinite affection. It was quite a long time before he 
could bring himself to place them carefully on a shelf and return 
to his pottering in the garden. 



JJIJfjKjM^ MARY jW¥??»¥f»M!tfMt!?W?»W?W¥??ty?W??tm 



THERE WAS IN THOSE DAYS 1 HOPE IT IS THERE STILL A VILLAGE 

called Ufferleigh, lying all among the hills and downs of North 
Hampshire. In every cottage garden there was a giant apple tree, 
and when these trees were hung red with fruit, and the newly lifted 
potatoes lay gleaming between bean-row and cabbage-patch, a 
young man walked into the village who had never been there before. 

He stopped in the lane just under Mrs. Hedges's gate, and looked 
up into her garden. Rosie, who was picking the beans, heard his 
tentative cough, and turned and leaned over the hedge to hear 
what he wanted. "I was wondering," said he, "if there was anybody 
in the village who had a lodging to let." 

He looked at Rosie, whose cheeks were redder than the apples, 
and whose hair was the softest yellow imaginable. "I was wonder- 
ing," said he in amendment, "if you had." 

Rosie looked back at him. He wore a blue jersey such as sea- 
faring men wear, but he seemed hardly like a seafaring man. His 
face was brown and plain and pleasant, and his hair was black. 
He was shabby and he was shy, but there was something about 
him that made it very certain he was not just a tramp. "I'll ask," 
said Rosie. 

With that she ran for her mother, and Mrs. Hedges came out 
to interview the young man. "I've got to be near Andover for a 
week," said he, "but somehow I didn't fancy staying right in the 
town." 

"There's a bed," said Mrs. Hedges. "If you don't mind having 
your meals with us " 

"Why, surely, ma'am," said he. "There's nothing I'd like better." 

Everything was speedily arranged; Rosie picked another handful 
of beans, and in an hour he was seated with them at supper. He 
told them his name was Fred Baker, but, apart from that, he was 
so polite that he could hardly speak, and in the end Mrs. Hedges 
had to ask him outright what his business was. "Why, ma'am," 
said he, looking her straight in the face, "I've done one thing and 
another ever since I was so high, but I heard an old proverb once, 

[34] 



Mary [35] 

how to get on in the world. Teed 'em or amuse 'em/ it said. So 
that's what I do, ma'am. I travel with a pig." 

Mrs. Hedges said she had never heard of such a thing. 

"You surprise me," said he. "Why, there are some in London, 
they tell me, making fortunes on the halls. Spell, count, add up, 
answer questions, anything. But let them wait," said he, smiling, 
"till they see Mary." 

"Is that the name of your pig?" asked Rosie. 

"Well," said Fred, shyly, "it's what I call her just between our- 
selves like. To her public, she's Zola. Sort of Frenchified, I thought. 
Spicy, if you'll excuse the mention of it. But in the caravan I call 
her Mary." 

"You live in a caravan?" cried Rosie, delighted by the doll's- 
house idea. 

"We do," said he. "She has her bunk, and I have mine." 

"I don't think I should like that," said Mrs. Hedges. "Not a pig. 
No." 

"She's as clean," said he, "as a new-born babe. And as for com- 
pany, well, you'd say she's human. All the same, it's a bit of a 
wandering life for her — up hill and down dale, as the saying goes. 
Between you and me I shan't be satisfied till I get into one of these 
big London theatres. You can see us in the West End!" 

"I should like the caravan best," said Rosie, who seemed to have 
a great deal to say for herself, all of a sudden. 

"It's pretty," said Fred. "Curtains, you know. Pot of flowers. 
Little stove. Somehow I'm used to it. Can't hardly think of myself 
staying at one of them big hotels. Still, Mary's got her career to 
think of. I can't stand in the way of her talent, so that's that." 

"Is she big?" asked Rosie. 

"It's not her size," said he. "No more than Shirley Temple. It's 
her brains and personality. Clever as a wagonload of monkeys! 
You'd like her. She'd like you, I reckon. Yes, I reckon she would. 
Sometimes I'm afraid I'm a bit slow by way of company for her, 
never having had much to do with the ladies." 

"Don't tell me," said Mrs. Hedges archly, as convention re- 
quired. 

""' Tis so, ma'am," said he. "Always on the move, you see, ever 
since I was a nipper. Baskets and brooms, pots and pans, then some 
acrobat stuff, then Mary. Never two days in the same place. It 
don't give you the time to get acquainted." 



[36] Mary 

"You're going to be here a whole week, though," said Rosie 
artlessly, but at once her red cheeks blushed a hundred times 
redder than before, for Mrs. Hedges gave her a sharp look, which 
made her see that her words might have been taken the wrong way. 

Fred, however, had noticed nothing. "Yes," said he, "I shall be 
here a week. And why? Mary ran a nail in her foot in the market- 
place, Andover. Finished her act — and collapsed. Now she's at the 
vet's, poor creature." 

"Oh, poor thing!" cried Rosie. 

"I was half afraid," said he, "it was going wrong on her. But it 
seems she'll pull round all right, and I took opportunity to have 
the van repaired a bit, and soon we'll be on the road again. I shall 
go in and see her tomorrow. Maybe I can find some blackberries, 
to take her by way of a relish, so to speak." 

"Colley Bottom," said Rosie. "That's the place where they grow 
big and juicy." 

"Ah! If I knew where it was — " said Fred tentatively. 

"Perhaps, in the morning, if she's got time, she'll show you," 
said Mrs. Hedges, who began to feel very kindly disposed towards 
the young man. 

In the morning, surely enough, Rosie did have time, and she 
showed Fred the place, and helped him pick the berries. Returning 
from Andover, later in the day, Fred reported that Mary had 
tucked into them a fair treat, and he had little doubt that, if she 
could have spoken, she would have sent her special thanks. Noth- 
ing is more affecting than the gratitude of a dumb animal, and 
Rosie was impelled to go every morning with Fred to pick a few 
more berries for the invalid pig. 

On these excursions Fred told her a great deal more about Mary, 
a bit about the caravan, and a little about himself. She saw that 
he was very bold and knowing in some ways, but incredibly simple 
and shy in others. This, she felt, showed he had a good heart. 

The end of the week seemed to come very soon, and all at once 
they were coming back from Colley Bottom for the last time. 
Fred said he would never forget Ufferleigh, nor the nice time he 
had there. 

"You ought to send us a postcard when you're on your travels," 
said Rosie. 

"Yes," he said. "That's an idea. I will." 

"Yes, do," said Rosie. 



Mary [S7] 

"Yes," said he again. "I will. Do you know, I was altogether 
downhearted at going away, but now I'm half wishing I was on the 
road again already. So I could be sending that card right away," 
said he. 

"At that rate," said Rosie, looking the other way, "you might 
as well make it a letter." 

"Ah!" said he. "And do you know what I should feel like putting 
at the bottom of that letter? If you was my young lady, that is. 
Which, of course, you're not. Me never having had one." 

"What?" said Rosie. 

"A young lady," said he. 

"But what would you put?" said she. 

"Ah!" said he. "What I'd put. Do you know what I'd put? If— 
if, mind you — if you was my young lady?" 

"No," said she, "what?" 

"I don't hardly like to tell you," said he. 

"Go on," she said. "You don't want to be afraid." 

"All right," said he. "Only mind you, it's if" And with his stick 
he traced three crosses in the dust. 

"If I was anybody's young lady," said Rosie. "I shouldn't see 
anything wrong in that. After all, you've got to move with the 
times." 

Neither of them said another word, for two of the best reasons 
in the world. First, they were unable to; second, it was not neces- 
sary. They walked on with their faces as red as fire, in an agony 
of happiness. 

Fred had a word with Mrs. Hedges, who had taken a fancy to 
him from the start. Not that she had not always looked down 
upon caravan people, and could have been knocked over with a 
feather, had anyone suggested, at any earlier date, that she would 
allow a daughter of hers to marry into such a company. But right 
was right: this Fred Baker was different, as anyone with half an 
eye could see. He had kept himself to himself, almost to a fault, 
for his conversation showed that he was as innocent as a new-born 
babe. Moreover, several knowledgeable people in the village had 
agreed that his ambitions for Mary, his pig, were in no way un- 
justified. Everyone had heard of such talented creatures, reclining 
on snow-white sheets in the best hotels of the metropolis, drinking 
champagne like milk, and earning for their fortunate owners ten 
pounds, or even twenty pounds, a week. 



[38] Mary 

So Mrs. Hedges smilingly gave her consent, and Rosie became 
Fred's real, genuine, proper young lady. He was to save all he 
could during the winter, and she to stitch and sing. In the spring, 
he would come back and they were to get married. 

"At Easter," said he. 

"No," said Mrs. Hedges, counting on her fingers. "In May. Then 
tongues can't wag, caravan or no caravan." 

Fred had not the faintest idea what she was driving at, for he 
had lived so much alone that no one had told him certain things 
that every young man should know. However, he well realized that 
this was an unusually short engagement for UfTerleigh, and repre- 
sented a great concession to the speed and dash of the entertain- 
ment industry, so he respectfully agreed, and set off on his travels. 

My Darling Rosie, 

Well here we are in Painswick having had a good night Saturday 
at Evesham. Mary cleverer than ever that goes without saying 
now spells four new words thirty-six in all and when I say now 
Mary how do you like Painswick or Evesham or wherever it is she 
picks FINE it goes down very well. She is in the best of health and 
I hope you are the same. Seems to understand every word I say 
more like a human being every day. Well I suppose I must be 
getting our bit of supper ready she always sets up her cry for that 
specially when I am writing to you. 

With true love 

Fred XXX 

In May the apple trees were all in bloom, so it was an apple- 
blossom wedding, which in those parts is held to be an assurance of 
flowery days. Afterwards they took the bus to the market town, 
to pick up the caravan, which stood in a stable yard. On the way 
Fred asked Rosie to wait a moment, and dived into a confectioner's 
shop. He came out with a huge box of chocolates. Rosie smiled all 
over her face with joy. "For me?" she said. 

"Yes," said he. "To give to her as soon as she claps eyes on you. 
They're her weakness. I want you two to be real pals." 

"All right," said Rosie, who was the best-hearted girl in the 
world. 

The next moment they turned into the yard: there was the cara- 
van. "Oh, it's lovely!" cried Rosie. 

"Now you'll see her," said Fred. 



Mary [39] 

At the sound of his voice a falsetto squeal rose from within. 

"Here we are, old lady," said Fred, opening the door. "Here's a 
friend of mine come to help look after you. Look, she's brought you 
something you'll fancy." 

Rosie saw a middle-sized pig, flesh-colored, neat, and with a 
smart collar. It had a small and rather calculating eye. Rosie 
offered the chocolates: they were accepted without any very effu- 
sive acknowledgment. 

Fred put the old horse in, and soon they were off, jogging up the 
long hills to the west. Rosie sat beside Fred on the driving seat; 
Mary took her afternoon nap. Soon the sky began to redden where 
the road divided the woods on the far hill-top. Fred turned into a 
green lane, and they made their camp. 

He lit the stove, and Rosie put on the potatoes. They took a lot 
of peeling, for it seemed that Mary ate with gusto. Rosie put a 
gigantic rice pudding into the oven, and soon had the rest of the 
meal prepared. 

Fred set the table. He laid three places. 

"I say," said Rosie. 

"What?" said Fred. 

"Does she eat along with us?" said Rosie. "A pig?" 

Fred turned quite pale. He beckoned her outside the caravan. 
"Don't say a thing like that," said he. "She won't never take to 
you if you say a thing like that. Didn't you see her give you a 
look?" 

"Yes, I did," said Rosie. "All the same — Well, never mind, Fred. 
I don't care, really. I just thought I did." 

"You wait," said Fred. "You're thinking of ordinary pigs. 
Mary's different." 

Certainly Mary seemed a comparatively tidy eater. All the 
same, she gave Rosie one or two very odd glances from under her 
silky straw-colored lashes. She seemed to hock her rice pudding 
about a bit with the end of her nose. 

"What's up, old girl?" said Fred. "Didn't she put enough sugar 
in the pudden? Never mind — can't get everything right first time." 

Mary, with a rather cross hiccup, settled herself on her bunk. 
"Let's go out," said Rosie, "and have a look at the moon." 

"I suppose we might," said Fred. "Shan't be long, Mary. Just 
going about as far as that gate down the lane." Mary grunted 
morosely and turned her face to the wall. 



[40] Mary 

Rosie and Fred went out and leaned over the gate. The moon, 
at least was all that it should be. 

"Seems funny, being married and all," said Rosie softly. 

"Seems all right to me," said Fred. 

"Remember them crosses you drew in the dirt in the road that 
day?" said Rosie. 

"That I do," said Fred. 

"And all them you put in the letters?" said Rosie. 

"All of 'em," said Fred. 

"Kisses, that's what they're supposed to stand for," said Rosie. 

"So they say," said Fred. 

"You haven't given me one, not since we was married," said 
Rosie. "Don't you like it?" 

"That I do," said Fred. "Only, I don't know " 

"What?" said Rosie. 

"It makes me feel all queer," said Fred, "when I kiss you. As if 
I wanted " 

"What?" said Rosie. 

"I dunno," said Fred. "I don't know if it's I want to eat you all 
up, or what." 

"Try and find out, they say," said Rosie. 

A delicious moment followed. In the very middle of it a piercing 
squeal rose from the caravan. Fred jumped as if he were shot. 

"Oh dear," he cried. "She's wondering what's up. Here I come, 
old girl! Here I come! It's her bed-time, you see. Here I come to 
tuck you in!" 

Mary, with an air of some petulance, permitted this process. 
Rosie stood by. "I suppose we'd better make it lights out," said 
Fred. "She likes a lot of sleep, you see, being a brain worker." 

"Where do we sleep?" said Rosie. 

"I made the bunk all nice for you this morning," said Fred. "Me, 
I'm going to doss below. A sack full of straw, I've got." 

"But—" said Rosie. "But " 

"But what?" said he. 

"Nothing," said she. "Nothing." 

They turned in. Rosie lay for an hour or two, thinking what 
thoughts I don't know. Perhaps she thought how charming it was 
that Fred should have lived so simple and shy and secluded all 
these years, and yet be so knowing about so many things, and yet 



Mary [ 41 ] 

be so innocent, and never have been mixed up in bad company — It 
is impossible to say what she thought. 

In the end she dozed off, only to be wakened by a sound like the 
bagpipes of the devil himself. She sat up, terrified. It was Mary. 

"What's up? What's up?" Fred's voice came like the ghost's in 
Hamlet from under the floor. "Give her some milk," he said. 

Rosie poured out a bowl of milk. Mary ceased her fiendish racket 
while she drank, but the moment Rosie had blown out the light, 
and got into bed again, she began a hundred times worse than 
before. 

There were rumblings under the caravan. Fred appeared in the 
doorway, half dressed and with a straw in his hair. 

"She will have me," he said, in great distress. 

"Can't you — Can't you lie down here?" said Rosie. 

"What? And you sleep below? said Fred, astounded. 

"Yes," said Rosie, after a rather long pause. "And me sleep be- 
low." 

Fred was overwhelmed with gratitude and remorse. Rosie 
couldn't help feeling sorry for him. She even managed to give him 
a smile before she went down to get what rest she could on the 
sack of straw. 

In the morning, she woke feeling rather dejected. There was a 
mighty breakfast to be prepared for Mary; afterwards Fred drew 
her aside. 

"Look here," he said. "This won't do. I can't have you sleeping 
on the ground, worse than a gippo. I'll tell you what I'm going to 
do. I'm going to get up my acrobat stuff again. I used to make a 
lot that way, and I like it fine. Hand springs, double somersaults, 
bit of conjuring: it went down well. Only I didn't have time to 
keep in practice with Mary to look after. But if you'd do the look- 
ing after her, we'd make it a double turn, and soon we'd have a 
good bit of cash. And then " 

"Yes?" said Rosie. 

"Then," said Fred, "I could buy you a trailer." 

"All right," said Rosie, and turned away. Suddenly she turned 
back with her face flaming. "You may know a lot about pigs," she 
said bitterly. "And about somersaults, and conjuring and baskets 
and brooms and I don't know what-all. But there's one thing you 
don't know." And with that she went off and cried behind a hedge. 



[42] Mary 

After a while she got the upper hand of it, and came back to the 
caravan. Fred showed her how to give Mary her morning bath, 
then the depilatory — that was very hard on the hands — then the 
rubbing with Cleopatra Face Cream — and not on her face merely 
— then the powdering, then the manicuring and polishing of her 
trotters. 

Rosie, resolved to make the best of it, conquered her repug- 
nance, and soon mastered these handmaidenly duties. She was 
relieved at first that the spoiled pig accepted her ministrations 
without protest. Then she noticed the gloating look in its eye. 

However, there was no time to brood about that. No sooner was 
the toilet finished than it was time to prepare the enormous lunch. 
After lunch Mary had her little Avalk, except on Saturdays when 
there was an afternoon show, then she took her rest. Fred explained 
that during this period she liked to be talked to, and have her back 
scratched a bit. Mary had quite clearly decided that in future she 
was going to have it scratched a lot. Then she had her massage. 
Then tea, then another little walk, or the evening show, according 
to where they were, and then it was time to prepare dinner. At the 
end of the day Rosie was thankful to curl up on her poor sack of 
straw. 

When she thought of the bunk above, and Fred, and his sim- 
plicity, her heart was fit to break. The only thing was, she loved 
him dearly, and she felt that if they could soon snatch an hour 
alone together, they might kiss a little more, and a ray of light 
might dispel the darkness of excessive innocence. 

Each new day she watched for that hour, but it didn't come. 
Mary saw to that. Once or twice Rosie suggested a little stroll, but 
at once the hateful pig grumbled some demand or other that kept 
her hard at work till it was too late. Fred, on his side, was busy 
enough with his practising. He meant it so well, and worked so 
hard — but what did it lead to? A trailer! 

As the days went by, she found herself more and more the slave 
of this arrogant grunter. Her back ached, her hands got chapped 
and red, she never had a moment to make herself look nice, and 
never a moment alone with her beloved. Her dress was spotted 
and spoiled, her smile was gone, her temper was going. Her pretty 
hair fell in elf locks and tangles, and she had neither time nor heart 
to comb it. 

She tried to come to an explanation with Fred, but it was noth- 



Mary [43] 

ing but cross purposes and then cross words. He tried in a score of 
little ways to show that he loved her: these seemed to her a mere 
mockery, and she gave him short answers. Then he stopped, and 
she thought he loved her no longer. Even worse, she felt she no 
longer loved him. 

So the whole summer went by, and things got worse and worse, 
and you would have taken her for a gipsy indeed. 

The blackberries were ripe again; she found a whole brake of 
them. When she tasted one, all sorts of memories flooded into her 
heart: she went and found Fred. "Fred," she said, ''the black- 
berries are ripe again. I've brought you one or two." She held out 
some in her grubby hand. Fred took them and tasted them; she 
watched to see what the result would be. 

"Yes," said he, "they're ripe. They won't gripe her. Take her 
and pick her some this afternoon." 

Rosie turned away without a word, and in the afternoon she 
took Mary across the stubbles to where the ripe berries grew. 
Mary, when she saw them, dispensed for once with dainty service, 
and began to help herself very liberally. Rosie, finding she had 
nothing more urgent to attend to, sat down on a bank and sobbed 
bitterly. 

In the middle of it all she heard a voice asking what was the 
matter. She looked up and there was a fat, shrewd, jolly-looking 
farmer. "What is it, my girl?" said he. "Are you hungry?" 

"No," said she, "I'm fed up." 

"What with?" said he. 

"A pig!" said she, with a gulp. 

"You've got no call to bawl and cry," said he. "There's nothing 
like a bit of pork. I'd have the indigestion for that, any day." 

"It's not pork," she said. "It's a pig. A live pig." 

"Have you lost it?" said he. 

"I wish I had," said she. "I'm that miserable I don't know what 
to do." 

"Tell me your troubles," said he. "There's no harm in a bit of 
sympathy." 

So Rosie told him about Fred, and about Mary, and what hopes 
she'd had and what they'd all come to, and how she was the slave 
of this insolent, spoiled, jealous pig, and in fact she told him every- 
thing except one little matter which she could hardly bring herself 
to repeat, even to the most sympathetic of fat farmers. 



[ 44 ] Mary 

The farmer, pushing his hat over his eyes, scratched his head 
very thoughtfully. "Really," said he. "I can't hardly believe it." 

"It's true," said Rosie, "every word." 

"I mean," said the farmer. "A young man — a young gal — the 
young gal sleeping down on a sack of straw — a pretty young gal 
like you. Properly married and all. Not to put too fine a point on 
it, young missus, aren't the bunks wide enough, or what?" 

"He doesn't know," sobbed Rosie. "He just doesn't know no 
more'n a baby. And she won't let us ever be alone a minute. So 
he'd find out." 

The farmer scratched his head more furiously than ever. Look- 
ing at her tear-stained face, he found it hard to doubt her. On the 
other hand it seemed impossible that a pig should know so much 
and a young man should know so little. But at that moment Mary 
came trotting through the bushes, with an egoistical look on her 
face, which was well besmeared with the juice of the ripe berries. 

"Is this your pig?" said the farmer. 

"Well," said Rosie, "I'm just taking her for a walk." 

The shrewd farmer was quick to notice the look that Rosie got 
from the haughty grunter when it heard the expression "your pig." 
This, and Rosie's hurried, nervous disclaimer, convinced the 
worthy man that the story he had heard was well founded. 

"You're taking her for a walk?" said he musingly. "Well! Well! 
Well! I'll tell you what. If you'd ha' been here this time tomorrow 
you'd have met me taking a walk, with a number of very dear 
young friends of mine, all very much like her. You might have 
come along. Two young sows, beautiful creatures, though maybe 
not so beautiful as that one. Three young boars, in the prime of 
their health and handsomeness. Though I say it as shouldn't, him 
that's unattached — he's a prince. Oh, what a beautiful young boar 
that young boar really is!" 

"You don't say?" said Rosie. 

"For looks and pedigree both," said the farmer, "he's a prince. 
The fact is, it's their birthday, and I'm taking 'em over to the vil- 
lage for a little bit of a celebration. I suppose this young lady has 
some other engagement tomorrow." 

"She has to have her sleep just about this time," said Rosie, 
ignoring Mary's angry grunt. 

"Pity!" said the farmer. "She'd have just made up the party. Such 
fun they'll have! Such refreshments! Sweet apples, cakes biscuits, 



Mary [45] 

a bushel of chocolate creams. Everything most refined, of course, 
but plenty. You know what I mean — plenty. And that young boar 

— you know what I mean. If she should be walking by " 

"I'm afraid not," said Rosie. 

"Pity!" said the farmer. "Ah, well. I must be moving along." 

With that, he bade them good afternoon, raising his hat very 
politely to Mary, who looked after him for a long time, and then 
walked sulkily home, gobbling to herself all the way. 

The next afternoon Mary seemed eager to stretch out on her 
bunk, and, for once, instead of requiring the usual number of little 
attentions from Rosie, she closed her eyes in sleep. Rosie took the 
opportunity to pick up a pail and go off to buy the evening ration 
of fresh milk. When she got back Fred was still at his practice by 
the wayside, and Rosie went round to the back of the caravan, 
and the door was swinging open, and the bunk was empty. 

She called Fred. They sought high and low. They went along the 
roads, fearing she might have been knocked over by a motor car. 
They went calling through the woods, hoping she had fallen asleep 
under a tree. They looked in ponds and ditches, behind haystacks, 
under bridges, everywhere. Rosie thought of the farmer's joking 
talk, but she hardly liked to say anything about it to Fred. 

They called and called all night, scarcely stopping to rest. They 
sought all the next day. It grew dark, and Fred gave up hope. They 
plodded silently back to the caravan. 

He sat on a bunk, with his head in his hand. 

"I shall never see her again," he said. "Been pinched, that's 
what she's been. 

"When I think," he said, "of all the hopes I had for that pig 

"When I think," he said, "of all you've done for her! And what 
it's meant to you 

"I know she had some faults in her nature," he said. "But that 
was artistic. Temperament, it was. When you got a talent like 
that— — 

"And now she's gone!" he said. With that he burst into tears. 

"Oh, Fred!" cried Rosie. "Don't!" 

Suddenly she found she loved him just as much as ever, more 
than ever. She sat down beside him and put her arms round his 
neck. "Darling Fred, don't cry!" she said again. 

"It's been rough on you, I know," said Fred. "I didn't ever mean 
it to be." 



[ 46 ] Mary 

"There! There," said Rosie. She gave him a kiss, and then she 
gave him another. It was a long time since they had been as close 
as this. There was nothing but the two of them and the caravan; 
the tiny lamp, and darkness all round; their kisses, and grief all 
round. "Don't let go," said Fred. "It makes it better." 

"I'm not letting go," she said. 

"Rosie," said Fred. "I feel— Do you know how I feel?" 

"I know," she said. "Don't talk." 

"Rosie," said Fred, but this was some time later. "Who'd have 
thought it?" 

"Ah! Who would, indeed?" said Rosie. 

"Why didn't you tell me?" said Fred. 

"How could I tell you?" said she. 

"You know," said he. "We might never have found out — 
never! — if she hadn't been pinched." 

"Don't talk about her," said Rosie. 

"I can't help it," said Fred. "Wicked or not, I can't help it— 
I'm glad she's gone. It's worth it. I'll make enough on the acrobat 
stuff. I'll make brooms as well. Pots and pans, too." 

"Yes," said Rosie. "But look! It's morning. I reckon you're tired, 
Fred — running up hill and down dale all day yesterday. You lie 
abed now, and I'll go down to the village and get you something 
good for breakfast." 

"All right," said Fred. "And tomorrow I'll get yours." 

So Rosie went down to the village, and bought the milk and the 
bread and so forth. As she passed the butcher's shop she saw some 
new-made pork sausages of a singularly fresh, plump, and appetiz- 
ing appearance. So she bought some, and very good they smelled 
while they were cooking. 

"That's another thing we couldn't have while she was here," 
said Fred, as he finished his plateful. "Never no pork sausages, on 
account of her feelings: I never thought to see the'day I'd be glad 
she was pinched. I only hope she's gone to someone who appre- 
ciates her." 

"I'm sure she has," said Rosie. "Have some more." 

"I will," said he. "I don't know if it's the novelty, or the way 
you cooked 'em, or what. I never ate a better sausage in my life. 
If we'd gone up to London with her, best hotels and all, I doubt if 
ever we'd have had as sweet a sausage as these here." 



J!5!j2l!JI5!^^ MIDNIGHT BLUE ^r^r^^r^ 



MR. SPIERS CAME IN EXTREMELY LATE. HE SHUT THE DOOR VERY 

quietly, switched on the electric light, and stood for quite a long 
time on the door mat. 

Mr. Spiers was a prosperous accountant with a long, lean face, 
naturally pale; a cold eye, and a close mouth. Just behind his jaw- 
bones a tiny movement was perceptible, like the movement of gills 
in a fish. 

He now took off his bowler hat, looked at it inside and out, and 
hung it upon the usual peg. He pulled off his muffler, which was 
a dark one, dotted with polka dots of a seemly size, and he scruti- 
nized this muffler very carefully and hung it on another peg. His 
overcoat, examined even more scrupulously, was next hung up, 
and Mr. Spiers went quickly upstairs. 

In the bathroom he spent a very long time at the mirror. He 
turned his face this way and that, tilted it sideways to expose his 
jaw and neck. He noted the set of his collar, saw that his tiepin 
was straight, looked at his cuff links, his buttons, and finally pro- 
ceeded to undress. Again he examined each garment very closely; 
it was as well Mrs. Spiers did not see him at this moment, or she 
might have thought he was looking for a long hair, or traces of 
powder. However, Mrs. Spiers' had been asleep for a couple of 
hours. After her husband had examined, every stitch of his cloth- 
ing, he crept to his dressing room for'a.clothesbrush, which he used 
even upon his shoes. Finally he looked at his hands and his nails, 
and scrubbed them. both very thoroughly. 

He then sat down on the edge of the bath, put his elbows on his 
knees and his chin on his hands, and gave himself up to a very 
profound train of thought. Now and then he marked the checking- 
off of some point or other by lifting a finger and bringing it back 
again onto his cheek, or even onto -the spot behind his jawbone 
where there was that little movement, so like the movement of 
the gills of a fish. 

[48] 



Midnight Blue [49] 



At last Mr. Spiers seemed satisfied, and he turned out the light 
and repaired to the conjugal bedroom, which was decorated in 
cream, rose, and old gold. 

In the morning, Mr. Spiers arose at his usual hour and de- 
scended, with his usual expression, to the breakfast room. 

His wife, who was his opposite in all respects, as some say a 
wife should be, was already busy behind the coffee service. She 
was as plump, as blonde, as good-humored, and as scatterbrained 
as any woman should be at a breakfast table, perhaps even more 
so. The two younger children were there; the two older ones were 
late. 

"So here you are!" said Mrs. Spiers to her husband, in a sprightly 
tone. "You were late." 

"About one," said he, taking up the newspaper. 

"It must have been later than that," said she. "I heard one 
o'clock strike." 

"It might have been half past," said he. 

"Did Mr. Benskin give you a lift?" 

"No." 

"All right, my dear, I only asked." 

"Give me my coffee," said he. 

"A dinner's all right," said she. "A man ought to have an eve- 
ning with his friends. But you ought to get your rest, Harry. Not 
that I had much rest last night. Oh, I had such a terrible dream! 
I dreamed I — " 

"If there's one thing," said her husband, "that I hate more 
than a slop- in my saucer — Do you see this mess?" 

"Really, dear," said she, "you asked so brusquely for your 
coffee—" 

"Father spilled the coffee," piped up little Patrick. "His hand 
jerked — like that." 

Mr. Spiers turned his'eye upon his younger son, and his younger 
son was silent. 

"I was saying," said Mr. Spiers, "that if I detest anything more 
than a filthy mess in my saucer, it is the sort of fool who blathers 
out a dream at the breakfast table." 

"Oh, my dream!" said Mrs. Spiers with the utmost good humor. 
"All right, my dear, if you don't want to hear it. It was about you, 
that's all." 



[50] Midnight Blue 



"Either tell your dream, or don't tell it," said Mr. Spiers. 

"You said you didn't want to hear it," replied Mrs. Spiers, not 
unreasonably. 

"There is no more disgusting or offensive sort of idiot," said Mr. 
Spiers, "than the woman who, like a tantalizing shopgirl, hatches 
up a mystery, and then — " 

"There is no mystery," said Mrs. Spiers. "I don't know what 
you know about shopgirls. You said you didn't want — " 

"Will you," said Mr. Spiers, "kindly put an end to this, and tell 
me, very briefly, whatever nonsense it was that you dreamed, and 
let us have done with it? Imagine you are dictating a telegram." 

"Mr. T. Spiers, Normandene, Radclyffe Avenue, Wrexton Gar- 
den Suburb," said his wife. "I dreamed that you were hung." 

"Hanged, Mother," said little Daphne. 

"Hullo, Mums," said her big sister, entering at that moment. 
"Hullo, Dads. Sorry I'm late. Good morning, children. What's the 
matter, Daddy? You look as if you'd heard from the Income Tax." 

"Because of a murder," continued Mrs. Spiers, "in the middle of 
the night. It was so vivid, my dear! I was quite glad when you said 
you were back by half past one." 

"Half past one, nothing," said the elder daughter. 

"Mildred," said her mother, "that's film talk." 

"Daddy's an old rip," said Mildred, tapping her egg. "Freddy 
and I got back from the dance at half past two, and his hat and 
coat wasn't there then." 

"Weren't there," said little Daphne. 

"If that child corrects her elder sister, or you, in front of my face 
once again — " said Mr. Spiers. 

"Be quiet, Daphne," said her mother. "Well, that was it, my 
dear. I dreamed you committed a murder, and you were hanged." 

"Daddy hanged?" cried Mildred in the highest glee. "Oh, 
Mummy, who did he murder? Tell us all the grisly details." 

"Well, it really was grisly," said her mother. "I woke up feeling 
quite depressed. It was poor Mr. Benskin." 

"What?" said her husband. 

"Yes, you murdered poor Mr. Benskin," said Mrs. Spiers. 
"Though why you should murder your own partner, I don't know." 

"Because he insisted on looking at the books," said Mildred. 



Midnight Blue [51] 



"They always do, and get murdered. I knew it would be one or the 
other for Daddy — murdered or hung." 

"Hanged" said little Daphne. 

"Be quiet!" said her father. "These children will drive me mad." 

"Well, my dear," said his wife, "there you were, with Mr. Ben- 
skin, late at night, and he was running you home in his car, and 
you were chatting about business — you know how people can 
dream the most difficult talk, about things they don't know any- 
thing about, and it sounds all right, and of course it's all nonsense. 
It's the same with jokes. You dream you made the best joke you 
ever heard, and when you wake up—" 

"Go on," said Mr. Spiers firmly. 

"Well, my dear, you were chatting, and you drove right into his 
garage, and it was so narrow that the doors of the car would only 
open on one side, and so you got out first, and you said to him, 
*Wait a minute,' and you tilted up the front seat of that little 
Chevrolet of his, and you got in at the back where your coats and 
hats were. Did I say you were driving along without your over- 
coats on, because it was one of these mild nights we're having?" 

"Go on," said Mr. Spiers. 

"Well, there were your coats and hats on the back seat, and 
Mr. Benskin still sat at the wheel, and there was that dark over- 
coat he always wears, and your light cheviot you wore yesterday, 
and your silk mufflers, and your hats and everything, and you 
picked up one of the mufflers — they both had white polka dots on 
them — I think he was wearing one like yours last time he came to 
lunch on Sunday. Only his was dark blue. Well, you picked up the 
muffler, and you were talking to him, and you tied a knot in it, 
and all of a sudden you put it round his neck and strangled him." 

"Because he'd asked to look at the books," said Mildred. 

"Really it's — it's too much," said Mr. Spiers. 

"It was nearly too much for me," said his spouse. "I was so 
upset, in my dream. You got a piece of rope, and tied it to the end 
of the scarf, and then to the bar across the top of the garage, so it 
looked as if he'd hanged himself." 

"Good heavens!" said Mr. Spiers. 

"It was so vivid, I can't tell you," said his wife. "And then it all 
got mixed up, as dreams do, and I kept on seeing you with that 



[52] Midnight Blue 



muffler on, and it kept on twisting about your neck. And then you 
were being tried, and they brought in — the muffler. Only, seeing 
it by daylight, it was Mr. Benskin's, because it was dark blue. 
Only by the artificial light it looked black." 

Mr. Spiers crumbled his bread. "Very extraordinary," he said. 

"It's silly, of course," said his wife. "Only you would have me 
tell you." 

"I wonder if it is so silly," said her husband. "As a matter of fact, 
I did ride home with Benskin last night. We had a very serious 
talk. Not to go into details, it happened I'd hit on something very 
odd at the office. Well, I had it out with him. We sat talking a 
long time. Maybe it was later than I thought when I got home. 
When I left him, do you know, I had the most horrible premoni- 
tion. I thought, 'That fellow's going to make away with himself.' 
That's what I thought. I very nearly turned back. I felt like a — 
well, I felt responsible. It's a serious business. I spoke to him very 
forcefully." 

"You don't say Mr. Benskin's a fraud?" cried Mrs. Spiers. 
"We're not ruined, Harry?" 

"Not ruined," said her husband. "But there's been some pretty 
deep dipping." 

"Are you sure it's him?" said Mrs. Spiers. "He — he seems so 
honest." 

"Him or me," said her husband. "And it wasn't me." 

"But you don't think he's — he's hanged himself," said Mrs. 
Spiers. 

"Heaven forbid!" said her husband. "But considering that feel- 
ing I had — well, perhaps the dream came just from the feeling." 

"It's true Rose Waterhouse dreamed of water when her brother 
was away sailing," said Mrs. Spiers, "but he wasn't drowned." 

"There are thousands of such cases," said her husband. "They're 
generally wrong on all the details." 

"I hope so, indeed!" cried Mrs. Spiers. 

"For example," said her husband, "it happens we both wore our 
coats and mufflers all the time last night. The atmosphere was 
hardly intimate." 

"I should say not," said Mrs. Spiers. "Who would have thought 
it of Mr. Benskin?" 

"His wife, poor woman, would not have thought it," said Mr. 



Midnight Blue [53] 



Spiers gravely. "I have resolved to spare her. So, Mildred, chil- 
dren, whatever has happened or has not happened, not a word, 
not one word, is to be said about this to anyone. Do you hear? To 
anyone! You know nothing. A single word might lead to disgrace 
for the whole wretched family." 

"You are quite right, my dear," said his wife. "I will see to the 
children." 

"Morning, Mum," cried Fred, bursting into the room. "Morn- 
ing, Guv'nor. No time for breakfast. I'll just get the train by the 
skin of my teeth, if I'm lucky. Whose muffler's this, by the way? 
It's not yours, is it, Dad? This is dark blue. Can I bag it? Why — 
what's the matter? What on earth's the matter?" 

"Come in, Fred," said Mrs. Spiers. "Come in here and shut the 
door. Don't worry about your train." 



WtftfftftWtffWfWtfff^ 



BACK FOR 
CHRISTMAS 



J!W!f!!^ BACK FOR CHRISTMAS fi^SSgSg^ 



WE CERTAINLY MUST HAVE YOU 

with us for Christmas." It was afternoon and the Carpenters' 
living room was filled with friends who had come to say last-minute 
farewells to the Doctor and his wife. 

"He shall be back," said Mrs. Carpenter. "I promise you." 

"It's hardly certain," said Dr. Carpenter. "I'd like nothing bet- 
ter, of course." 

"After all," said Mr. Hewitt, "you've contracted to lecture only 
for three months." 

"Anything may happen," said Dr. Carpenter. 

"Whatever happens," said Mrs. Carpenter, beaming at them, 
"he shall be back in England for Christmas. You may all believe 
me." 

They all believed her. The Doctor himself almost believed her. 
For ten years she had been promising him for dinner parties, gar- 
den parties, committees, heaven knows what, and the promises 
had always been kept. 

The farewells began. There was a fluting of compliments on 
dear Hermione's marvellous arrangements. She and her husband 
would drive to Southampton that evening. They would embark 
the following day. No trains, no bustle, no last-minute worries. 
Certainly the Doctor was marvellously looked after. He would be 
a great success in America. Especially with Hermione to see to 
everything. She would have a wonderful time, too. She would see 
the skyscrapers. Nothing like that in Little God wearing. But she 
must be very sure to bring him back. "Yes, I will bring him back. 
You may rely upon it." He mustn't be persuaded. No extensions. 
No wonderful post at some super-American hospital. Our infir- 
mary needs him. And he must be back by Christmas. "Yes," Mrs. 
Carpenter called to the last departing guest, "I shall see to it. He 
shall be back by Christmas." 

The final arrangements for closing the house were very well 

[56] 



Back for Christmas [57] 

managed. The maids soon had the tea things washed up; they 
came in, said goodbye, and were in time to catch the afternoon 
bus to Devizes. 

Nothing remained but odds and ends, locking doors, seeing that 
everything was tidy. "Go upstairs," said Hermione, "and change 
into your brown tweeds. Empty the pockets of that suit before 
you put it in your bag. I'll see to everything else. All you have to 
do is not to get in the way." 

The Doctor went upstairs and took off the suit he was wearing, 
but instead of the brown tweeds, he put on an old, dirty bath gown, 
which he took from the back of his wardrobe. Then, after making 
one or two little arrangements, he leaned over the head of the 
stairs and called to his wife, "Hermione! Have you a moment to 
spare?" 

"Of course, dear. I'm just finished." 

"Just come up here for a moment. There's something rather ex- 
traordinary up here." 

Hermione immediately came up. "Good heavens, my dear 
man!" she said when she saw her husband. "What are you lounging 
about in that filthy old thing for? I told you to have it burned long 
ago." 

"Who in the world," said the Doctor, "has dropped a gold chain 
down the bathtub drain?" 

"Nobody has, of course," said Hermione. "Nobody wears such 
a thing." 

"Then what is it doing there?" said the Doctor. "Take this flash- 
light. If you lean right over, you can see it shining, deep down." 

"Some Woolworth's bangle off one of the maids," said Hermione. 
"It can be nothing else." However, she took the flashlight and 
leaned over, squinting into the drain. The Doctor, raising a short 
length of lead pipe, struck two or three times with great force and 
precision, and tilting the body by the knees, tumbled it into the 
tub. 

He then slipped off the bathrobe and, standing completely 
naked, unwrapped a towel full of implements and put them into 
the washbasin. He spread several sheets of newspaper on the floor 
and turned once more to his victim. 

She was dead, of course — horribly doubled up, like a somer- 
saulter, at one end of the tub. He stood looking at her for a very 



[58] Back for Christmas 

long time, thinking of absolutely nothing at all. Then he saw how 
much blood there was and his mind began to move again. 

First he pushed and pulled until she lay straight in the bath, 
then he removed her clothing. In a narrow bathtub this was an 
extremely clumsy business, but he managed it at last and then 
turned on the taps. The water rushed into the tub, then dwindled, 
then died away, and the last of it gurgled down the drain. 

"Good God!" he said. "She turned it off at the main." 

There was only one thing to do: the Doctor hastily wiped his 
hands on a towel, opened the bathroom door with a clean corner 
of the towel, threw it back onto the bath stool, and ran downstairs, 
barefoot, light as a cat. The cellar door was in a corner of the en- 
trance hall, under the stairs. He knew just where the cut-off was. 
He had reason to: he had been pottering about down there for 
some time past — trying to scrape out a bin for wine, he had told 
Hermione. He pushed open the cellar door, went down the steep 
steps, and just before the closing door plunged the cellar into pitch 
darkness, he put his hand on the tap and turned it on. Then he 
felt his way back along the grimy wall till he came to the steps. He 
was about to ascend them when the bell rang. 

The Doctor was scarcely aware of the ringing as a sound. It was 
like a spike of iron pushed slowly up through his stomach. It went 
on until it reached his brain. Then something broke. He threw 
himself down in the coal dust on the floor and said, "I'm through. 
I'm through." 

"They've got no right to come. Fools!" he said. Then he heard 
himself panting. "None of this," he said to himself. "None of this." 

He began to revive. He got to his feet, and when the bell rang 
again the sound passed through him almost painlessly. "Let them 
go away," he said. Then he heard the front door open. He said, 
"I don't care." His shoulder came up, like that of a boxer, to shield 
his face. "I give up," he said. 

He heard people calling. "Herbert!" "Hermione!" It was the 
Wallingfords. "Damn them! They come butting in. People anxious 
to get off. All naked! And blood and coal dust! I'm done! I'm 
through! I can't do it." 

"Herbert!" 

"Hermione!" 

"Where the dickens can they be?" 



Back for Christmas [59] 

"The car's there." 

"Maybe they've popped round to Mrs. Liddell's." 

"We must see them." 

"Or to the shops, maybe. Something at the last minute." 

"Not Hermione. I say, listen! Isn't that someone having a bath? 
Shall I shout? What about whanging on the door?" 

"Sh-h-h! Don't. It might not be tactful." 

"No harm in a shout." 

"Look, dear. Let's come in on our way back. Hermione said they 
wouldn't be leaving before seven. They're dining on the way, in 
Salisbury." 

"Think so? All right. Only I want a last drink with old Herbert. 
He'd be hurt." 

"Let's hurry. We can be back by half past six." 

The Doctor heard them walk out and the front door close 
quietly behind them. He thought, "Half past six. I can do it." 

He crossed the hall, sprang the latch of the front door, went 
upstairs, and taking his instruments from the washbasin, finished 
what he had to do. He came down again, clad in his bath gown, 
carrying parcel after parcel of towelling or newspaper neatly se- 
cured with safety pins. These he packed carefully into the narrow, 
deep hole he had made in the corner of the cellar, shovelled in the 
soil, spread coal dust over all, satisfied himself that everything 
was in order, and went upstairs again. He then thoroughly cleansed 
the bath, and himself, and the bath again, dressed, and took his 
wife's clothing and his bath gown to the incinerator. 

One or two more little touches and everything was in order. It 
was only quarter past six. The Wallingfords were always late; he 
had only to get into the car and drive off. It was a pity he couldn't 
wait till after dusk, but he could make a detour to avoid passing 
through the main street, and even if he was seen driving alone, 
people would only think Hermione had gone on ahead for some 
reason and they would forget about it. 

Still, he was glad when he had finally got away, entirely unob- 
served, on the open road, driving into the gathering dusk. He had 
to drive very carefully; he found himself unable to judge distances, 
his reactions were abnormally delayed, but that was a detail. 
When it was quite dark he allowed himself to stop the car on the 
top of the downs, in order to think. 



[60] Back for Christmas 

The stars were superb. He could see the lights of one or two 
little towns far away on the plain below him. He was exultant. 
Everything that was to follow was perfectly simple. Marion was 
waiting in Chicago. She already believed him to be a widower. The 
lecture people could be put off with a word. He had nothing to do 
but establish himself in some thriving out-of-the-way town in 
America and he was safe forever. There were Hermione's clothes, 
of course, in the suitcases: they could be disposed of through the 
porthole. Thank heaven she wrote her letters on the typewriter — 
a little thing like handwriting might have prevented everything. 
"But there you are," he said. "She was up-to-date, efficient all 
along the line. Managed everything. Managed herself to death, 
damn her!" 

"There's no reason to get excited," he thought. "I'll write a few 
letters for her, then fewer and fewer. Write myself — always ex- 
pecting to get back, never quite able to. Keep the house one year, 
then another, then another; they'll get used to it. Might even 
come back alone in a year or two and clear it up properly. Nothing 
easier. But not for Christmas!" He started up the engine and was 
off. 

In New York he felt free at last, really free. He was safe. He 
could look back with pleasure — at least after a meal, lighting his 
cigarette, he could look back with a sort of pleasure — to the min- 
ute he had passed in the cellar listening to the bell, the door, and 
the voices. He could look forward to Marion. 

As he strolled through the lobby of his hotel, the clerk, smiling, 
held up letters for him. It was the first batch from England. Well, 
what did that matter? It would be fun dashing off the typewritten 
sheets in Hermione's downright style, signing them with her squig- 
gle, telling everyone what a success his first lecture had been, how 
thrilled he was with America but how certainly she'd bring him 
back for Christmas. Doubts could creep in later. 

He glanced over the letters. Most were for Hermione. From the 
Sinclairs, the Wallingfords, the vicar, and a business letter from 
Holt & Sons, Builders and Decorators. 

He stood in the lounge, people brushing by him. He opened the 
letters with his thumb, reading here and there, smiling. They all 
seemed very confident he would be back for Christmas. They re- 
lied on Hermione. "That's where they make their big mistake," 



Back for Christmas [ 61 ] 

said the Doctor, who had taken to American phrases. The build- 
ers' letter he kept to the last. Some bill, probably. It was: 

Dear Madam, 

We are in receipt of your kind acceptance of estimate as below, 
and also of key. 

We beg to repeat you may have every confidence in same being 
ready in ample time for Christmas present as stated. We are set- 
ting men to work this week. 
We are, Madam, 

Yours faithfully, 

Paul Holt & Sons 
To excavating, building up, suitably lining one sunken wine 
bin in cellar as indicated, using best materials, making good, etc. 

£18/0/0 



?!ttft»??f!?t?¥!?!tf!tty^ 



EVENING 
PRIMROSE 



}?!$£$^ E VENING PRIMR OSE ^^^^ 



In a pad oj Highlife Bond, 

bought by Miss Sadie Brodribb 

at Bracey's 

for 25$ 

February 21 

TODAY I MADE MY DECISION. I WOULD TURN MY BACK FOR GOOD AND 

all upon the bourgeois world that hates a poet. I would leave, get 
out, break away 

And I have done it. I am free! Free as the mote that dances in 
the sunbeam! Free as a house-fly crossing first-class in the Queen 
Mary! Free as my verse! Free as the food I shall eat, the paper I 
write upon, the lamb's- wool-lined softly slithering slippers I shall 
wear. 

This morning I had not so much as a car-fare. Now I am here, on 
velvet. You are itching to learn of this haven: you would like to 
organize trips here, spoil it, send your relations-in-law, perhaps 
even come yourself. After all, this journal will hardly fall into your 
hands till I am dead. I'll tell you. 

I am at Bracey's Giant Emporium, as happy as a mouse in the 
middle of an immense cheese, and the world shall know me no 
more. 

Merrily, merrily shall I live now, secure behind a towering pile 
of carpets, in a corner-nook which I propose to line with eider- 
downs, angora vestments, and the Cleopatrsean tops in pillows. I 
shall be cosy. 

I nipped into this sanctuary late this afternoon, and soon heard 
the dying footfalls of closing time. From now on, my only effort 
will be to dodge the night-watchman. Poets can dodge. 

I have already made my first mouse-like exploration. I tiptoed 
as far as the stationery department, and, timid, darted back with 

[64] 



Evening Primrose [65] 

only these writing materials, the poet's first need. Now I shall lay 
them aside, and seek other necessities: food, wine, the soft furni- 
ture of my couch, and a natty smoking-jacket. This place stimu- 
lates me. I shall write here. 

Damn, next day 

I suppose no one in the world was ever more astonished and 
overwhelmed than I have been tonight. It is unbelievable. Yet I 
believe it. How interesting life is when things get like that! 

I crept out, as I said I would, and found the great shop in min- 
gled light and gloom. The central well was half illuminated; the 
circling galleries towered in a pansy Piranesi of toppling light and 
shade. The spidery stairways and flying bridges had passed from 
purpose into fantasy. Silks and velvets glimmered like ghosts, a 
hundred pantie-clad models offered simpers and embraces to the 
desert air. Rings, clips, and bracelets glittered frostily in a desolate 
absence of Honey and Daddy. 

Creeping along the transverse aisles, which were in deeper dark- 
ness, I felt like a wandering thought in the dreaming brain of a 
chorus girl down on her luck. Only, of course, their brains are not 
so big as Bracey's Giant Emporium. And there was no man there. 

None, that is, except the night-watchman. I had forgotten him. 
A regular thudding, which might almost have been that of my own 
heart, suddenly burst upon me loudly, from outside, only a few 
feet away. Quick as a flash I seized a costly wrap, flung it about 
my shoulders, and stood stock-still. 

I was successful. He passed me, jingling his little machine on its 
chain, humming his little tune, his eyes scaled with refractions of 
the blaring day. "Go, worldling!" I whispered, and permitted my 
self a soundless laugh. 

It froze on my lips. My heart faltered. A new fear seized me. 

I was afraid to move. I was afraid to look round. I felt I was 
being watched, by something that could see right through me. This 
was a very different feeling from the ordinary emergency caused 
by the very ordinary night-watchman. My conscious impulse was 
the obvious one, to glance behind me. But my eyes knew better. I 
remained absolutely petrified, staring straight ahead. 

My eyes were trying to tell me something that my brain refused 



[66] Evening Primrose 

to believe. They made their point. I was looking straight into an- 
other pair of eyes, human eyes, but large, flat, luminous. I have 
seen such eyes among the nocturnal creatures, which creep out 
under the artificial blue moonlight in the zoo. 

The owner was only a dozen feet away from me. The watchman 
had passed between us, nearer him than me. Yet he had not been 
seen. I must have been looking straight at him for several minutes 
at a stretch. I had not seen him either. 

He was half reclining against a high dais, a platform for the ex- 
hibition of shawls and mantillas. One of these brushed his shoul- 
der: its folds concealed perhaps his ear, his shoulder, and a little of 
his right side. He was clad in dim but large-patterned Shetland 
tweeds of the latest cut, suede shoes, a shirt of a rather broad motif 
in olive, pink, and grey. He was as pale as a creature found under 
a stone. His long thin arms ended in hands that hung floatingly, 
more like trailing, transparent fins, or wisps of chiffon, than ordi- 
nary hands. 

He spoke. His voice was not a voice, a mere whistling under the 
tongue. "Not bad, for a beginner!" 

I grasped that he was complimenting me, rather satirically, on 
my concealment under the wrap. I stuttered. I said, "I'm sorry. I 
didn't know anyone else lived here." I noticed, even as I spoke, 
that I was imitating his own whistling sibilant utterance. 

"Oh, yes," he said. "We live here. It's delightful." 

"We?" 

"Yes, all of us. Look." 

We were near the edge of the first gallery. He swept his long 
hand round, indicating the whole well of the shop. I looked. I saw 
nothing. I could hear nothing, except the watchman's thudding 
step receding infinitely far along some basement aisle. 

"Don't you see?" 

You know the sensation one has, peering into the half-light of a 
vivarium? One sees bark, pebbles, a few leaves, nothing more. And 
then, suddenly, a stone breathes — it is a toad; there is a chameleon, 
another, a coiled. adder, a mantis among the leaves. The whole case 
seems crepitant with life. Perhaps the whole world is. One glances 
at one's sleeve, one's feet. 

So it was with the shop. I looked, and it was empty. I looked, 



Evening Primrose [67] 

and there was an old lady, clambering out from behind the mon- 
strous clock. There were three girls, elderly ingenues, incredibly 
emaciated, simpering at the entrance of the perfumery. Their hair 
was a fine floss, pale as gossamer. Equally brittle and colorless 
was a man with the appearance of a colonel of southern extraction, 
who stood regarding me while he caressed moustachios that would 
have done credit to a crystal shrimp. A chintzy woman, possibly 
of literary tastes, swam forward from the curtains and drapes. 

They came thick about me, fluttering, whistling, like a waving 
of gauze in the wind. Their eyes were wide and flatly bright. I saw 
there was no color to the iris. 

"How raw he looks!" 

"A detective! Send for the Dark Men!" 

"I'm not a detective. I am a poet. I have renounced the world." 

"He is a poet. He has come over to us. Mr. Roscoe found him." 

"He admires us." 

"He must meet Mrs. Vanderpant." 

I was taken to meet Mrs. Vanderpant: she proved to be the 
Grand Old Lady of the store, almost entirely transparent. 

"So you are a poet, Mr. Snell? You will find inspiration here. I 
am quite the oldest inhabitant. Three mergers and a complete re- 
building, but they didn't get rid of me!" 

"Tell how you went out by daylight, dear Mrs. Vanderpant, 
and nearly got bought for Whistler's Mother." 

"That was in pre-war days. I was more robust then. But at the 
cash desk they suddenly remembered there was no frame. And 
when they came back to look at me " 

" — She was gone." 

Their laughter was like the stridulation of the ghosts of grass- 
hoppers. 

"Where is Ella? Where is my broth?" 

"She is bringing it, Mrs. Vanderpant. It will come." 

"Terrible little creature! She is our foundling, Mr. Snell. She is 
not quite our sort." 

"Is that so, Mrs. Vanderpant? Dear, dear!" 

"I lived alone here, Mr. Snell, ever since the terrible times in the 
eighties. I was a young girl then, a beauty, they said, and poor 
Papa lost his money. Bracey's meant a lot to a young girl, in the 



[68] Evening Primrose 

New York of those days, Mr. Snell. It seemed to me terrible that 
I should not be able to come here in the ordinary way. So I came 
here for good. I was quite alarmed when others began to come 
in, after the crash of 1907. But it was the dear Judge, the Colonel, 
Mrs. Bilbee " 

I bowed. I was being introduced. 

"Mrs. Bilbee writes plays. And of a very old Philadelphia family. 
You will find us quite nice here, Mr. Snell." 

"I feel it a great privilege, Mrs. Vanderpant." 

"And of course, all our dear young people came in '29. Their 
poor papas jumped from skyscrapers." 

I did a great deal of bowing and whistling. The introductions 
took a long time. Who would have thought so many people lived in 
Bracey's? 

"And here at last is Ella with my broth." 

It was then I noticed that the young people were not so young 
after all, in spite of their smiles, their little ways, their ingenue 
dress. Ella was in her teens. Clad only in something from the shop- 
soiled counter, she nevertheless had the appearance of a living 
flower in a French cemetery, or a mermaid among polyps. 

"Come, you stupid thing!" 

"Mrs. Vanderpant is waiting." 

Her pallor was not like theirs, not like the pallor of something 
that glistens or scuttles when you turn over a stone. Hers was that 
of a pearl. 

Ella! Pearl of this remotest, most fantastic cave! Little mermaid, 
brushed over, pressed down by objects of a deadlier white — ten- 
tacles — ! I can write no more. 

February 28 

Well, I am rapidly becoming used to my new and half-lit world, 
to my strange company. I am learning the intricate laws of silence 
and camouflage which dominate the apparently casual strollings 
and gatherings of the midnight clan. How they detest the night- 
watchman, whose existence imposes these laws on their idle festi- 
vals! 

"Odious, vulgar creature! He reeks of the coarse sun!" 
Actually, he is quite a personable young man, very young for 
a night-watchman. But they would like to tear him to pieces. 



Evening Primrose [69] 

They are very pleasant to me, though. They are pleased that a 
poet should have come among them. Yet I cannot like them en- 
tirely. My blood is a little chilled by the uncanny ease with which 
even the old ladies can clamber spider-like from balcony to bal- 
cony. Or is it because they are unkind to Ella? 

Yesterday we had a bridge party. Tonight Mrs. Bilbee's little 
play, Love in Shadowland, is going to be presented. Would you 
believe it? — another colony, from Wanamaker's, is coming over 
en masse to attend. Apparently people live in all stores. This visit 
is considered a great honor: there is an intense snobbery in these 
creatures. They speak with horror of a social outcast who left a 
high-class Madison Avenue establishment, and now leads a wal- 
lowing, beachcomberish life in a delicatessen. And they relate with 
tragic emotion the story of the man in Altman's, who conceived 
such a passion for a model plaid dressing jacket that he emerged 
and wrested it from the hands of a purchaser. It seems that all the 
Altman colony, dreading an investigation, were forced to remove 
beyond the social pale, into a five-and-dime. Well, I must get 
ready to attend the play. 

March 1 

I have found an opportunity to speak to Ella. I dared not 
before: here one has a sense always of pale eyes secretly watch- 
ing. But last night, at the play, I developed a fit of hiccups. 
I was somewhat sternly told to go and secrete myself in the 
basement, among the garbage cans, where the watchman never 
comes. 

There, in the rat-haunted darkness, I heard a stifled sob. 
"What's that? Is it you? Is it Ella? What ails you, child? Why do 
you cry?" 

"They wouldn't even let me see the play." 

"Is that all? Let me console you." 

"I am so unhappy." 

She told me her tragic little story. What do you think? When 
she was a child, a little tiny child of only six, she strayed away 
and fell asleep behind a counter, while her mother tried on a new 
hat. When she woke, the store was in darkness. 

"And I cried, and they all came round, and took hold of me. 
'She will tell, if we let her go/ they said. Some said, 'Call in the 



[70] Evening Primrose 



Dark Men.' 'Let her stay here,' said Mrs. Vanderpant. 'She will 
make me a nice little maid.' " 

"Who are these Dark Men, Ella? They spoke of them when I 
came here." 

"Don't you know? Oh, it's horrible! It's horrible!" 

"Tell me, Ella. Let us share it." 

She trembled. "You know the morticians, 'Journey's End/ who 
go to houses when people die?" 

"Yes, Ella." 

"Well, in that shop, just like here, and at Gimbel's, and at 
Bloomingdale's, there are people living, people like these." 

"How disgusting! But what can they live upon, Ella, in a funeral 
home?" 

"Don't ask me! Dead people are sent there, to be embalmed. 
Oh, they are terrible creatures! Even the people here are terrified 
of them. But if anyone dies, or if some poor burglar breaks in, and 
sees these people, and might tell " 

"Yes? Go on." 

"Then they send for the others, the Dark Men." 

"Good heavens!" 

"Yes, and they put the body in the surgical department — or 
the burglar, all tied up, if it's a burglar — and they send for these 
others, and then they all hide, and in they come, these others — 
Oh! they're like pieces of blackness. I saw them once. It was ter- 
rible." 

"And then?" 

"They go in, to where the dead person is, or the poor burglar. 
And they have wax there — and all sorts of things. And when 
they're gone there's just one of these wax models left, on the table. 
And then our people put a frock on it, or a bathing suit, and they 
mix it up with all the others, and nobody ever knows." 

"But aren't they heavier than the others, these wax models? 
You would think they'd be heavier." 

"No. They're not heavier. I think there's a lot of them — gone." 

"Oh dear! So they were going to do that to you, when you were 
a little child?" 

"Yes, only Mrs. Vanderpant said I was to be her maid." 

"I don't like these people, Ella." 

"Nor do 1. 1 wish I could see a bird." 



Evening Primrose [71 



"Why don't you go into the pet-shop?" 

"It wouldn't be the same. I want to see it on a twig, with leaves." 
"Ella, let us meet often. Let us creep away down here and meet. 
I will tell you about birds, and twigs and leaves." 

March 10 

"Ella, I love you." 

I said it to her just like that. We have met many times. I have 
dreamt of her by day. I have not even kept up my journal. Verse 
has been out of the question. 

"Ella, I love you. Let us move into the trousseau department. 
Don't look so dismayed, darling. If you like, we will go right away 
from here. We will live in the refreshment rooms in Central Park. 
There are thousands of birds there." 

"Don't, Charles, don't." 

"But I love you with all my heart." 

"You mustn't." 

"But I find I must. I can't help it. Ella, you don't love another?" 

She wept a little. "Oh, Charles, I do." 

"Love another, Ella? One of these? I thought you dreaded them 
all. It must be Roscoe. He is the only one that's any way human. 
We talk of art, life, and such things. And he has stolen your heart!" 

"No, Charles, no. He's just like the rest, really. I hate them all. 
They make me shudder." 

"Who is it, then?" 

"It's him." 

"Who?" 

"The night-watchman." 

"Impossible!" 

"No. He smells of the sun." 

"Oh, Ella, you have broken my heart." 

"Be my friend, though." 

"I will. I'll be your brother. How did you fall in love with him?" 

"Oh, Charles, it was so wonderful. I was thinking of birds, and 
I was careless. Don't tell on me, Charles, they'll punish me." 

"No. No. Go on." 

"I was careless, and there he was, coming round the corner. And 
there was no place for me, I had this blue frock on. There were 
only some wax models in their underthings." 



[72] Evening Primrose 

"Please go on." 

"I couldn't help it, Charles. I slipped off my dress, and stood 
still." 

"I see." 

"And he stopped just by me, Charles. And he looked at me. 
And he touched my cheek." 

"Did he notice nothing?" 

"No. It was cold. But Charles, he said — he said — 'Say, honey, 
I wish they made 'em like you on Eighth Avenue.' Charles, wasn't 
that a lovely thing to say?" 

"Personally, I should have said Park Avenue." 

"Oh, Charles, don't get like these people here. Sometimes I 
think you're getting like them. It doesn't matter what street, 
Charles; it was a lovely thing to say." 

"Yes, but my heart's broken. And what can you do about him? 
Ella, he belongs to another world." 

"Yes, Charles, Eighth Avenue. I want to go there. Charles, are 
you truly my friend?" 

"I'm your brother, only my heart's broken." 

"I'll tell you. I will. I'm going to stand there again. So he'll see 
me." 

"And then?" 

"Perhaps he'll speak to me again." 

"My dearest Ella, you are torturing yourself. You are making 
it worse." 

"No, Charles. Because I shall answer him. He will take me 
away." 

"Ella, I can't bear it." 

"Ssh! There is someone coming. I shall see birds, flowers grow- 
ing. They're coming. You must go." 



March 13 

The last three days have been torture. This evening I broke. 
Roscoe (he was my first acquaintance) came in. There has always 
been a sort of hesitant sympathy between us. 

He said, "You're looking seedy, old fellow. Why don't you go 
over to Wanamaker's for some skiing?" 

His kindness compelled a frank response. "It's deeper than that. 



Evening Primrose [73] 

Roscoe. I'm done for. I can't eat, I can't sleep. I can't write, man, 
I can't ever write." 

"What is it? Day starvation?" 

"Roscoe — it's love." 

"Not one of the staff, Charles, or the customers? That's abso- 
lutely forbidden." 

"No, it's not that, Roscoe. But just as hopeless." 

"My dear old fellow, I can't bear to see you like this. Let me 
help you. Let me share your trouble." 

Then it all came out. It burst out. I trusted him. I think I 
trusted him. I really think I had no intention of betraying Ella, 
of spoiling her escape, of keeping her here till her heart turned 
towards me. If I had, it was subconscious. I swear it. 

But I told him all. All. He was sympathetic, but I detected a 
sly reserve in his sympathy. "You will respect my confidence, 
Roscoe? This is to be a secret between us." 

"As secret as the grave, old chap." 

And he must have gone straight to Mrs. Vanderpant. This eve- 
ning the atmosphere has changed. People flicker to and fro, smiling 
nervously, horribly, with a sort of frightened sadistic exaltation. 
When I speak to them they answer evasively, fidget, and disap- 
pear. An informal dance has been called off. I cannot find Ella. I 
will creep out. I will look for her again. 

Later 

Heaven! It has happened. I went in desperation to the manager's 
office, whose glass front overlooks the whole shop. I watched till 
midnight. Then I saw a little group of them, like ants bearing a 
victim. They were carrying Ella. They took her to the surgical 
department. They took other things. 

And, coming back here, I was passed by a flittering, whispering 
horde of them, glancing over their shoulders in a thrilled ecstasy 
of panic, making for their hiding places. I, too, hid myself. How 
can I describe the dark inhuman creatures that passed me, silent 
as shadows? They went there — where Ella is. 

What can I do? There is only one thing. I will find the watch- 
man. I will tell him. He and I will save her. And if we are over- 
powered— Well, I will leave this on a counter. Tomorrow, if we 
live, I can recover it. 



[74] Evening Primrose 

If not, look in the windows. Look for three new figures: two 
men, one rather sensitive-looking, and a girl. She has blue eyes, 
like periwinkle flowers, and her upper lip is lifted a little. 

Look for us. 

Smoke them out! Obliterate them! Avenge us! 



ffitff'tyffitffi^^ 



THE FROG 
PRINCE 



j!!fffl!tfjl!jjfUff^!jff^ the FROG PRINCE ^^^^^ 



TWO YOUNG MEN WERE DISCUSSING LITE. SAID THE RICHER OF THEM 

to the poorer, "Paul, you had better marry my sister." 

"That is a very strange thing to say," said Paul, "considering 
I have told you all about my debts." 

"I am not worldly," replied Henry Vanhomry. "I should prefer 
my sister to marry a clean, decent, and kindly fellow like yourself, 
than some rich but blase roue, cynic, near-man, sub-man, or half- 
man." 

"I am certainly not blase," said Paul. "On the other hand, I had 
not the pleasure of meeting your family when I was in Boston." 

"I am very fond of my sister," said Henry, "in a way." 

"How delightful! No doubt she was a mother to you when you 
were small. A little mother!" 

"No. No. She is ten years younger than I am; only twenty-eight, 
in fact." 

"Aha! She would have come into her fortune just in the rockiest 
year of our financial history." 

"Fortunately it is well invested, and yields her an income of 
forty thousand dollars." 

"An objection occurs to me. We are men of the world, Henry. 
If we were of the other sex, we might also make mistakes. Fond 
as I am of children " 

"That would be a matter entirely for you to decide." 

"Henry, your sister sounds charming. Tell me more about her. 
She is not by any chance a teeny little woman?" And Paul held his 
hand some thirty inches from the floor. 

"Quite the reverse." 

"Quite the reverse, eh?" 

"My dear Paul, I do not mean that she is six feet four." 

"Six feet three, perhaps?" 

"And a half. But perhaps I should tell you she is rather plump. 
Disproportionately so, in fact." 

[76] 



The Frog Prince [77] 



"Upon my word! I hope she is good-tempered." 

"Angelically. You should hear her petting her dolls/' 

"Pardon me, Henry, but is she at all — backward?" 

"A matter of opinion. She reads and writes admirably." 

"How delightful. We could correspond, if I happened to be 
away." 

"I will be frank with you, Paul: her letters to famous boxers are 
quite amazingly expressive, though by no means perfect in or- 
thography." 

"Henry, she is capable of hero worship; she has an affectionate 
nature." 

"Almost embarrassingly so. It appears from these letters of hers, 
which we censor, that she would make a devoted wife. However, 
my family are old-fashioned, and the boxers are cowardly brutes. 
I should like to see her married." 

"But, as yet, if I understand you, she is pure as the driven snow? 
Charming!" 

"Hers has been a cloistered girlhood. Yet there is something 
romantic in her nature which causes me alarm. Supposing one of 
the boxers responded. He might not treat her politely." 

"I, on the other hand, would write her the most devoted letters, 
and bow, with old-world courtesy, whenever we met. Hm! All I 
fear, to be perfectly candid, is that a certain confounded coldness, 
a defect of my nature, might be a cause of pain, dissatisfaction, or 
longing." 

"Well, my dear Paul, that is hardly a matter for me to speculate 
upon. I can only remind you that faint heart never won fair 
lady." 

"Very well, Henry. I will at least come with you and see your 
sister." 

"I am afraid I cannot accompany you. You forget that I am 
off to Europe next week. However, I'll give you a letter of intro- 
duction to the family." 

All this being arranged, our good Paul took leave of his friend, 
and after walking about for a little with an air of distraction, he 
paid a visit to the apartment of another friend of his. 

"My dear Olga," he said, after a time, "I'm afraid I have some 
very ridiculous news for you. I am going to be poor no longer." 

"Tell me only one thing, Paul. Is she beautiful?" 



[78] The Frog Prince 



"Not very, it seems. I have not seen her, but she is over six feet 
three, and disproportionately fat." 

"My poor Paul! She is simply bound to have hair on her face. 
What will become of you?" 

"Besides all this, she is not very bright, I hear." 

"And, now I come to think of it, what will become of me?" 

"She has forty thousand a year, my dear Olga." 

"Paul, we women are given to incredible follies when we are 
jealous. I might refuse everything. I find myself capable of jeal- 
ousy." 

"But, on the other hand, are you, or am I, capable of living any 
longer without a little of that forty thousand a year?" 

"Or some other." 

"But what other, my dear Olga? Where is another forty thou- 
sand?" 

"It is true, Paul. Am I right in believing that your gigantic 
bride-to-be is mentally nine years, or is it twelve years old?" 

"Seven, I should think, by all that Henry told me of her. She 
has an exuberant innocence. She write to boxers, but caresses 
dolls." 

"Really? That is very interesting. Dolls are so featureless. Now, 
is there any great hurry, Paul? I have still that bracelet you found 
at Palm Beach. It would provide us with a few last weeks together." 

"I was going to suggest, as a matter of fact, that it should be 
my present to the bride, for I like to do things in good style. How- 
ever, something may turn up. I admit that I love you." 

"You shall promise me not to go near Boston for at least a 
month. I shall be busy, I have decided to wear my hair short, but 
at least we shall meet at week-ends. In between, you may say 
farewell to all your bachelor life." 

"Yes, that is true, Olga. I shall have to do that, I suppose." 

Everything being agreed, this young couple spent the next 
month or so as Olga had suggested, and at the end of it, she saw 
him off to Boston, with a restraint that he found almost too ad- 
mirable. 

He arrived at Boston, presented his letter of introduction, and 
was very well received by old Mrs. Vanhomry. 

They got on admirably. "You are still a bachelor?" she asked. 



The Frog Prince [79] 



"I cannot," he replied, "bring myself to regard the modern girl 
as a true mate. Those clipped locks, that flat masculine figure, 
that hardness, that ultra-sophistication! Where are the curves, the 
innocence, the warm-heartedness of yesteryear? But why am I 
telling you all this — ?" 

"You would have liked our dear Ethel. Such a big, healthy, 
affectionate, old-fashioned girl! You must meet her, and her fiance. 
Perhaps you will come to the wedding?" 

"Nothing could be more delightful. Unfortunately, I have to 
return to New York almost immediately." 

On his return, Paul called at once on Olga, but found that her 
flat was locked up. She had left no address; you may depend he 
sought her everywhere. 

He saw in the papers an account of the wedding of Miss Van- 
homry to a Mr. Colefax: it appeared that the happy pair were 
on their way to the Ritz-Carlton. 

"I really must go and sit in the lobby," said he, "and console 
myself with a peep at the disadvantages attached to that forty 
thousand a year." 

Very well, he sat in the lobby. Before very long, he saw the 
enormous form of what was evidently the happy bride crossing 
from the elevator. 

"Upon my word!" he thought. "There is a great deal to be said 
for the simple life after all. One at least preserves one's indi- 
viduality." 

He peered about for the husband. At last he saw a sensitive face 
in the neighborhood of the bride's hips. "That must be the hus- 
band," he said. "Very charming! Very charming indeed. But surely 
I have seen him before." 

In order to make sure, he edged closer, and was amazed to find 
that this husband was none other than his own Olga, in male attire. 

He at once applied for a private interview. "My dear Olga, this 
is a very pretty trick you have played on me. And what can your 
bride — soi-disant — think of it all?" 

"You must regard the matter rationally, my dear Paul." 

"I am so afraid there may be a scandal. You have no idea what 
spiteful tongues might make of it." 

"You underestimate the innocence of my wife, whose dolls, as 



[80] The Frog Prince 



I suspected, were very ordinary dolls. And you must admit, Paul, 
that if either of us is to be in this positon, I at least offer less 
grounds for jealousy. You had better be my secretary." 

Paul submitted with a good grace, and for a long time enjoyed 
his occupation very tolerably. Fortunately, Henry Vanhomry re- 
mained in Europe. 

On one occasion there was a dinner party at the Colefax home, 
and a few of the male guests, with Paul the friendly secretary, and 
dapper little Mr. Colefax, remained smoking together long after 
the gigantic bride had retired to bed. The conversation turned on 
women, a subject which the so-called Mr. Colefax enjoyed more 
than his secretary. They talked of attractions. 

"My wife," said this charming impostor, "is disarmingly simple: 
why try to disguise it? Nevertheless, she has an amazing per- 
sonality buried, as it were, beneath her naivete. I am convinced 
it is there, I sense it, and yet I could hardly find an example to 
describe. How do you account for that?" 

"It is very simple, my dear Colefax," said a very eminent doctor. 
"Your wife, if I may say so, owes her adorable simplicity, as she 
does her admirably robust physique, to a little glandular malad- 
justment, which (always supposing you should desire what profes- 
sionally we should regard as an improvement) could easily be put 
right. Who knows what she is like underneath?" 

"It would certainly be interesting to find out," said her false 
husband, intrigued. 

"She might be slim, vivacious, a positive butterfly," continued 
the doctor. 

"It would be like carving out ambergris from a whale," observed 
a well-known adventurer who was present. 

"Or opening a neolithic barrow," added an eminent archaeolo- 
gist. 

"Or undressing an Eskimo girl at Christmas," put in a notorious 
Don Juan. 

"You might find more than you bargain for," observed Paul, 
overcome by an inexplicable foreboding. 

He spoke too late. Everyone was desperately keen on the experi- 
ment. 

"You must bring your dear wife to a little home that I have in 



The Frog Prince [ 81 ] 



Paris," said the doctor, "where I have every facility for the treat- 
ment." 

"We shall come at once. You, Paul, had better remain behind, 
to deal with everything we shall have to leave unsettled." 

Paul, therefore, was left. Ethel and her spouse went on the next 
boat to Paris, accompanied by the doctor, and, as a matter of fact, 
by the adventurer, the archaeologist, and the Don Juan as well. 

My Dear Paul, 

You will be amazed at the result of our experiment, and possibly 
a little disconcerted, though you were always a connoisseur of 
poetic justice. Under the treatment Ethel has lost no less than a 
hundred pounds. The removal of this prodigious quantity of blub- 
ber has left her exposed as a lean, agile, witty, and very handsome 
man. "How absurd that I should have been called Ethel so long!" 
he observed to me when first he was apprised of this transforma- 
tion. In order to put him at his ease, I replied at once, "No more 
absurd than that I should have been called your husband." After 
all, the cat was, so to speak, out of the bag, and there was nothing 
else to do. 

He took it extremely well, saying with a smile, "We must make 
the punishment fit the crime." On my part, I was not long in prom- 
ising never to deceive him again. 

We are remaining on this side to avoid gossip, for the situation 
has a ludicrous side which we might find painful. But not nearly 
so ludicrous or painful, my dear Paul, as it might have proved, in 
all the circumstances, had you had your original wish. 

Once more, 

Olga. 



^!r^^ ROPE ENOUGH ^^S^^j^ 



V 



HENRY FRASER, WELL ASSURED THAT ALMOST EVERYTHING IS DONE BY 

mirrors, was given a job in India. No sooner had he set foot on 
shore than he burst into a horse-laugh. Those who were meeting 
him asked in some alarm the cause of this merriment. He replied 
he was laughing at the mere idea of the Indian Rope Trick. 

He emitted similar startling sounds, and gave the same expla- 
nation, at a tiffin where he was officially made welcome; likewise 
on the Maidan, over chota peg, in rickshaws, in bazaars, in the 
Club, and on the polo ground. Soon he was known from Bombay 
to Calcutta as the man who laughed at the Indian Rope Trick, and 
he gloried in the well-deserved publicity. 

There came a day, however, when he was sitting in his bungalow, 
bored to death. His boy entered, and, with suitable salaams, an- 
nounced that a mountebank was outside, who craved the honor 
of entertaining the sahib with a performance of the Indian Rope 
Trick. Laughing heartily, Henry consented, and moved out to his 
chair upon the veranda. 

Below, in the dusty compound, stood a native who was emaci- 
ated to a degree, and who had with him a spry youngster, a huge 
mat basket, and a monstrous great sword. Out of the basket he 
dragged some thirty feet of stout rope, made a pass or two, and 
slung it up into the air. It stayed there. Henry chuckled. 

The boy then, with a caper, sprang at the rope, clutched it, and 
went up hand over hand, like a monkey. When he reached the top 
he vanished into thin air. Henry guffawed. 

Soon the man, looking upwards with an anxious expression, 
began to hoot and holler after the boy. He called him down, he 
ordered him down, he begged him down, he began to swear and 
curse horribly. The boy, it seemed, took no notice at all. Henry 
roared. 

Now the black, clapping his abominable great scimitar between 

[84] 



Rope Enough [85] 



his teeth, took hold of the rope himself, and went up it like a sailor. 
He, also, disappeared at the top. Henry's mirth increased. 

Pretty soon some yelps and squeals were heard coming out of 
the empty air, and then a blood-curdling scream. Down came a 
leg, thump on to the ground, then an arm, a thigh, a head and 
other joints, and finally (no ladies being present) , a bare backside, 
which struck the earth like a bomb. Henry went into fits. 

Then the black came sliding down, holding on with one hand, 
fairly gibbering with excitement. He presented to Henry, with a 
salaam, his reeking blade for inspection. Henry rocked in his chair. 

The black, seemingly overwhelmed with remorse, gathered up 
the fragments of his little stooge, lavishing a hundred lamentations 
and endearments upon each grisly member, and he stowed them 
all in the giant basket. 

At that moment Henry, feeling the time had come for a show- 
down, and willing to bet a thousand to one they'd planted the 
whole compound full of mirrors before calling him out there, 
pulled out his revolver, and blazed away all six chambers in differ- 
ent directions, in the expectation of splintering at least one of 
those deceiving glasses. 

Nothing of that sort happened, but the black, doing a quick 
pirouette in alarm, looked down in the dust at his feet, and held 
up a villainous little s nake , no thicker than a lead pencil, which 
had been killed by one of Henry's stray bullets. He gave a gasp of 
relief, touched his turban very civilly, turned round again, and 
made a pass or two over the basket. At once, with a wiggle and a 
frisk, the boy sprang out, whole, alive, smiling, full of health and 
wickedness. 

The black hastily hauled down the rope, and came cringing up 
to Henry, overflowing with gratitude for having been saved from 
that villainous little snake, which was nothing more nor less than 
a krait — one nip and a man goes round and round like a Catherine 
wheel for eleven seconds; then he is as dead as mutton. 

"But for the Heavenborn," said the black, "I should have been 
a goner, and my wicked little boy here, who is my pride and de- 
light, must have lain dismembered in the basket till the sahib's 
servants condescended to throw him to the crocodiles. Our worth- 
less lives, our scanty goods, are all at the sahib's disposal." 



[86] Rope Enough 



"That's all right," said Henry. "All I ask is, show me how the 
trick is worked, or the laugh will be on me from now on." 

"Would not the sahib/' said the black diffidently, "prefer the 
secret of a superb hair-restorer?" 

"No. No," said Henry. "Nothing but the trick." 

"I have," said the black, "the secret of a very peculiar tonic, 
which the sahib (not now, of course, but in later life) might 
find " 

"The trick," said Henry, "and without further delay." 

"Very well," said the black. "Nothing in the world could be 
more simple. You make a pass, like that " 

"Wait a minute," said Henry. "Like that?" 

"Exactly," said the black. "You then throw up the rope — so. 
You see? It sticks." 

"So it does," said Henry. 

"Any boy can climb," said the black. "Up boy! Show the sahib" 

The boy, smiling, climbed up and disappeared. 

"Now," said the black, "if the sahib will excuse me, I shall be 
back immediately." And with that he climbed up himself, threw 
down the boy in sections, and speedily rejoined Henry on the 
ground. 

"All that," said he, scooping up legs and arms as he spoke, "all 
that can be done by anyone. There is a little knack, however, to 
the pass I make at this juncture. If the sahib will deign to observe 
closely — like that." 

"Like that?" said Henry. 

"You have it to perfection," said the black. 

"Very interesting," said Henry. "Tell me, what's up there at 
the top of the rope?" 

"Ah, sahib," said the black with a smile, "that is something truly 
delightful." 

With that he salaamed and departed, taking with him his rope, 
his giant basket, his tremendous great scimitar, and his wicked 
little boy. Henry was left feeling rather morose: he was known 
from the Deccan to the Khyber Pass as the man who laughed at 
the Indian Rope Trick, and now he could laugh no more. 

He decided to keep very quiet about it, but this unfortunately 
I was not enough. At tiffin, at chota peg, at the Club, on the Maidan, 



Rope Enough [87] 



in the bazaar, and at polo, he was expected to laugh like a horse, 
and in India one has to do what is expected of one. Henry became 
extremely unpopular, cabals were formed against him, and soon 
he was hoofed out of the Service. 

This was the more distressing as in the meantime he had married 
a wife, strong-featured, upstanding, well groomed, straight-eyed, 
a little peremptory in manner, and as jealous as a demon, but in 
all respects a mem-sahib of the highest type, who knew very well 
what was due to her. She told Henry he had better go to America 
and make a fortune. He agreed, they packed up, and off they went 
to America. 

"I hope," said Henry, as they stood looking at the skyline of 
New York, "I hope I shall make thai fortune." 

"Of course," said she. "You must insist upon it." 

"Very well, my dear," said he. 

On landing, however, he discovered that all the fortunes had 
already been made, a discovery which very generally awaits those 
who visit America on this errand, and after some weeks of drifting 
about from place to place, he was prepared to cut his demand down 
to a mere job, then to a lesser job, and finally to the price of a 
meal and a becTfor the night. 

They reached this extremity in a certain small town in the 
Middle West. "There is nothing for it, my dear," said Henry. 
"We shall have to do the Ind ian Rope Trick. " 

His wife cried out very bitterly at the idea of a mem-sahib per- 
forming this native feat in a Middle Western town, before a 
Middle Western audience. She reproached him with the loss of 
his job, the poor quality of his manhood, with the time he let her 
little dog get run over on the bund, and with a glance he had cast 
at a Parsee maiden at Bombay. Nevertheless, reason and hunger 
prevailed: they pawned her last trinket, and invested in a rope, 
a roomy grip, and a monstrous old rusty scimitar they discovered 
in a junk-shop. 

When she saw this last, Henry's wife flatly refused to go on, 
unless she was given the star part and Henry took that of the 
stooge. "But," said Henry, drawing an apprehensive thumb down 
the notched and jagged edge of the grim and rusty bilbo. "But," 
said he, "you don't know how to make the passes." 



[88] Rope Enough 



"You shall teach me," she said, "and if anything goes wrong 
you will have only yourself to blame." 

So Henry showed her. You may be sure he was very thorough 
in his instructions. In the end she mastered them perfectly, and 
there was nothing left to do but to stain themselves with coffee. 
Henry improvised a turban and loin-cloth: she wore a sari and a 
pair of ash-trays borrowed from the hotel. They sought out a con- 
venient waste lot, a large crowd collected, and the show began. 

Up went the rope. Sure enough, it stuck. The crowd, with a 
multiple snigger, whispered that everything was done by mirrors. 
Henry, not without a good deal of puffing, went up hand over 
hand. When he got to the top, he forgot the crowd, the act, his 
wife, and even himself, so surprised and delighted was he by the 
sight that met his eyes. 

He found himself crawling out of something like a well, on to 
what seemed to be solid ground. The landscape about him was not 
at all like that below: it was like an Indian paradise, full of dells, 
bowers, scarlet ibises, and heaven knows what all. However, his 
surprise and delight came less from these features of the back- 
ground than from the presence of a young female in the nearest 
of these bowers or arbors, which happened to be all wreathed, can- 
opied, overgrown and intertwined with passion flowers. This de- 
lightful creature, who was a positive houri, and very lightly attired, 
seemed to be expecting Henry, and greeted him with rapture. 

Henry, who had a sufficiently affectionate nature, flung his arms 
round her neck and gazed deeply into her eyes. These were sur- 
prisingly eloquent: they seemed to say, "Why not make hey hey 
while the sun shines?" 

He found the notion entirely agreeable, and planted a lingering 

t kiss on her lips, noting only with a dim and careless annoyance 

j that his wife was hooting and hollering from below. "What person 

* of any tact or delicacy," thought he, "could hoot and holler at 

such a moment?" and he dismissed her from his mind. 

You may imagine his mortification when his delicious damsel 
suddenly repulsed him from her arms. He looked over his shoulder, 
and there was his wife, clambering over the edge, terribly red in 
the face, with the fury of a demon in her eye, and the mighty 
scimitar gripped well between her teeth. 



Rope Enough [89] 



Henry tried to rise, but she was beforehand with him, and while 
yet he had but one foot on the ground, she caught him one across 
the loins with the huge and jagged bilbo, which effectually ham- 
strung him, so that he fell grovelling at her feet. "For heaven's 
sake!" he cried. "It's all a trick. Part of the act. It means nothing. 
Remember our public. The show must go on." 

"It shall," said she, striking at his arms and legs. 

"Oh, those notches!" cried he. "I beg you, my dear, sharpen 
it a little upon a stone." 

"It is good enough for you, you viper," said she, hacking away 
all the time. Pretty soon Henry was a limbless trunk. 

"For the love of God," said he, "I hope you remember the passes. 
I can explain everything." 

"To hell with the passes!" said she, and with a last swipe she 
sent his head rolling like a football. 

She was not long in picking up the scattered fragments of poor 
Henry, and flinging them down to earth, amid the applause and 
laughter of the crowd, who were more than ever convinced it was 
all done by mirrors. 

Then, gripping her scimitar, she was about to swarm down after 
him, not from any soft-hearted intention of reassembling her un- 
fortunate spouse, but rather to have another hack or two at some 
of the larger joints. At that moment she became aware of someone 
behind her, and, looking round, there was a divine young man, 
with the appearance of a Maharaja of the highest caste, an abso- 
lute Valentino, in whose eyes she seemed to read the words, "It is 
better to burn upon the bed of passion than in the chair of elec- 
tricity." 

This idea presented itself with an overwhelming appeal. She 
paused only to thrust her head through the aperture, and cry, 
"That's what happens to a pig of a man who betrays his wife with 
a beastly native," before hauling up the rope and entering into 
conversation with her charmer. 

The police soon appeared upon the scene. There was nothing 
but a cooing sound above, as if invisible turtle doves were circling 
in amorous flight. Below, the various portions of Henry were scat- 
tered in the dust, and the blue-bottle flies were already settling 
upon them. 



[90] Rope Enough 



The crowd explained it was nothing but a trick, done with 
mirrors. 

"It looks to me," said the sergeant, "as if the biggest one must 
have splintered right on top of him." 



/KjJ^jjK^^ CHASER Ir^lr^r^ 



ALAN AUSTEN, AS NERVOUS AS A KITTEN, WENT UP CERTAIN DARK 

and creaky stairs in the neighborhood of Pell Street, and peered 
about for a long time on the dim landing before he found the name 
he wanted written obscurely on one of the doors. 

He pushed open this door, as he had been told to do, and found 
himself in a tiny room, which contained no furniture but a plain 
kitchen table, a rocking-chair, and an ordinary chair. On one of 
the dirty buff-colored walls were a couple of shelves, containing in 
all perhaps a dozen bottles and jars. 

An old man sat in the rocking-chair, reading a newspaper. Alan, 
without a word, handed him the card he had been given. "Sit 
down, Mr. Austen," said the old man very politely. "I am glad to 
make your acquaintance." 

"Is it true," asked Alan, "that you have a certain mixture that 
has — er — quite extraordinary effects?" 

"My dear sir," replied the old man, "my stock in trade is not 
very large — I don't deal in laxatives and teething mixtures — 
but such as it is, it is varied. I think nothing I sell has effects which 
could be precisely described as ordinary." 

"Well, the fact is — " began Alan. 

"Here, for example," interrupted the old man, reaching for a 
bottle from the shelf. "Here is a liquid as colorless as water, almost 
tasteless, quite imperceptible in coffee, milk, wine, or any other 
beverage. It is also quite imperceptible to any known method of 
autopsy." 

--"Do you mean it is a poison?" cried Alan, very much horri- 
fied. 

—"Call it a glove-cleaner if you like," said the old man indiffer- 
ently. "Maybe it will clean gloves. I have never tried. One might 
call it a life-cleaner. Lives need cleaning sometimes." 

"I want nothing of that sort," said Alan. 

"Probably it is just as well," said the old man. "Do you know 

192] 



The Chaser [93] 



the price of this? For one teaspoonful, which is sufficient, I ask 
five thousand dollars. Never less. Not a penny less." 

"I hope all your mixtures are not as expensive," said Alan appre- 
hensively. 

"Oh dear, no," said the old man. "It would be no good charging 
that sort of price for a love potion, for example. Young people who 
need a love potion very seldom have five thousand dollars. Other- 
wise they would not need a love potion." 

"I am glad to hear that," said Alan. 

"I look at it like this," said the old man. "Please a customer with 
one article, and he will come back when he needs another. Even 
if it is more costly. He will save up for it, if necessary." 

"So," said Alan, "you really do sell love potions?" 

"If I did not sell love potions," said the old man, reaching for 
another bottle, "I should not have mentioned the other matter 
to you. It is only when one is in a position to oblige that one can 
afford to be so confidential." 

"And these potions," said Alan. "They are not just — just — 
er " 

"Oh, no," said the old man. "Their effects are permanent, and 
extend far beyond the mere casual impulse. But they include it. 
Oh, yes, they include it. Bountifully, insistently. Everlastingly." 

"But consider the spirtual side," said the old man. 
ment. "How very interesting!" 

"But consider the spiritual side," said the old man. 

"I do, indeed," said Alan. 

"For indifference," said the old man, "they substitute devotion. 
For scorn, adoration. Give one tiny measure of this to the young 
lady — its flavor is imperceptible in orange juice, soup, or cock- 
tails — and however gay and giddy she is, she will change alto- 
gether. She will want nothing but solitude, and you." 

"I can hardly believe it," said Alan. "She is so fond of parties." 

"She will not like them any more," said the old man. "She will 
be afraid of the pretty girls you may meet." 

"She will actually be jealous?" cried Alan in a rapture. "Of me?" 

"Yes, she will want to be everything to you." 

"She is already. Only she doesn't care about it." 

"She will, when she has taken this. She will care intensely. You 
will be her sole interest in life." 



[94] The Chaser 



"Wonderful!" cried Alan. 

"She will want to know all you do," said the old man. All that 
has happened to you during the day. Every word of it. She will 
want to know what you are thinking about, why you smile sud- 
denly, why you are looking sad." 

"That is love!" cried Alan. 

"Yes," said the old man. "How carefully she will look after 
you! She will never allow you to be tired, to sit in a draught, to 
neglect your food. If you are an hour late, she will be terrified. 
She will think you are killed, or that some siren has caught you." 

"I can hardly imagine Diana like that!" cried Alan, overwhelmed 
with joy. 

"You will not have to use your imagination," said the old man. 
"And, by the way, since there are always sirens, if by any chance 
you should, later on, slip a little, you need not worry. She will for- 
give you, in the end. She will be terribly hurt, of course, but she 
will forgive you — in the end." 

"That will not happen," said Alan fervently. 

"Of course not," said the old man. "But, if it did, you need not 
worry. She would never divorce you. Oh, no! And, of course, she 
herself will never give you the least, the very least, grounds for — 
uneasiness." 

"And how much," said Alan, "is this wonderful mixture?" 

"It is not as dear," said the old man, "as the glove-cleaner, or 
life-cleaner, as I sometimes call it. No. That is five thousand dol- 
lars, never a penny less. One has to be older than you are, to in- 
dulge in that sort of thing. One has to save up for it." 

"But the love potion?" said Alan. 

"Oh, that," said the old man, opening the drawer in the kitchen 
table, and taking out a tiny, rather dirty-looking phial. "That is 
just a dollar." 

"I can't tell you how grateful I am," said Alan, watching him 
fill it. 

"I like to oblige," said the old man. "Then customers come back, 
later in life, when they are rather better off, and want more ex- 
pensive things. Here you are. You will find it very effective." 

"Thank you again," said Alan. "Good-bye." 
I "Au revoir" said the old man. 



ffftffffffttfffffffffffff?ffffffffff?rffffffffffrfftVff9VVftffVffffv?ff?ffffffffffff ? ?ff? V f?f? V fffr V ffff f ff?f f 9ftf 

THE DEVIL, 

GEORGE, AND 

ROSIE 



ffl!^ THE DEVIL, GEORGE, AND ROSIE^l 



THERE WAS A YOUNG MAN WHO WAS INVARIABLY SPURNED BY THE 

girls, not because he smelt at all bad, but because he happened 
to be as ugly as a monkey. He had a good heart, but this soured it, 
and though he would still grudgingly admit that the female kind 
were very agreeable in shape, size, and texture, he thought that in 
all other respects they were the most stupid, blind, perverse, and 
ill-natured bitches that had ever infested the earth. 

He expressed this view very forcefully, and on all possible occa- 
sions. One evening he was holding forth to a circle of his cronies: 
it was in the Horseshoe Bar, at the bottom of the Tottenham 
Court Road. He could not help noticing that his remarks at- 
tracted the interest of a smart and saturnine individual seated at 
the next table, who had the rather repulsive look of a detective 
dressed up in evening clothes for the purpose of spying on a night- 
club. 

Our friend was in no wise abashed by this scrutiny, but con- 
tinued to say exactly what girls were, and what they did whenever 
they got the chance. He, who had least evidence for it of any man 
in the world, seemed to think they were unduly inclined to lascivi- 
ousness. "Or else," said he, "in the other extreme, they are mer- 
cenary prudes, or sadistical Dianas, whose delight it is to kindle 
the fires of hell in a man's bosom and elsewhere, and triumphantly 
to describe his agonies to their little friends. I speak of the fires of 
hell — I wish they existed in reality, so that these harpies and 
teasers might be sent there, and I myself would go willingly, if 
only I could watch them frizzle and fry." 

With that, he got up and went home. You may imagine his 
astonishment, when he had climbed the high stairs to his poor 
student's room, to find the dark and cynical stranger, who had 
been watching him in the bar, now standing very much at his 
ease upon the hearth-rug. At the very first glance, he realized this 
was none other than the Devil himself, in whom for many years 

[96] 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [97] 

he had had no belief at all. "I cannot easily describe," said that 
worthy, with the smile of a man of the world, "the pleasure it 
gives me to meet one of such insight and intelligence as Mr. 
George Postlethwaite." 

George made several sorts of protest, but the Devil smiled and 
bowed like an ambassador. In the end he had buttered up George 
to some effect, and carried him off to supper in a little restaurant 
in Jermyn Street. It must be admitted, he stood a superb bottle 
of wine. 

"I was vastly intrigued," said he, "by the views I heard you 
expressing earlier this evening. Possibly, of course, they were born 
of a mere passing petulance, pique, wounded vanity — call it what 
you will?" 

"The Devil take me if they were!" cried George. 

"Splendid!" said his companion. "We are getting on like a house 
on fire. Now, my dear chap, my little difficulty is this. The domain 
over which I have the honor and pleasure to preside was designed 
originally on the most ample scale, but, nevertheless, certain re- 
cent tendencies are fast rendering its confines too narrow, and its 
supervision too onerous, for one who is not as young as he was." 

"Sorry to hear that," said George. 

"I could cope with the increase of the population of this planet," 
said the Devil. "I might have coped even with the emancipation 
of women. But unfortunately the two are connected, and form a 
vicious circle " 

"I see exactly what you mean," said George. 

"I wish I had never invented that particular sin," said the 
Devil. "I do indeed. There are a thousand million women in the 
world at this moment, and, with one or two negligible exceptions, 
every one of them is damned." 

"Fine!" said George. 

"Very fine indeed," said the Devil, "from the artistic point of 
view. But consider the pressure on space, and the ceaseless strain 
of organization." 

"Squeeze 'em in!" cried George with enthusiasm. "Pack 'em 
tight. That's what I say." 

"They would then imagine themselves at a party," replied his 
new friend, "and that would never do. No, no. Every one who 
comes to me must have individual attention. I intend to open a 



[98] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

new department. The site is chosen. The builders are at work. All 
that I need is a superintendent of iron personality." 

"I should like to know a little about the climate, salary, and 
prospects," said George, in a business-like tone. 

"The climate, much like that of Oxford Street on a summer 
afternoon," replied the Devil. "The salary is power, and the pros- 
pects are infinite. But if you are interested, my dear fellow, allow 
me to show you over the place. In any case, I should value your 
opinion on it." 

No sooner said than done: they sank into the bowels of the 
earth, and came out in a suburb of Sydney, N.S.W. 

"Here we are, then!" cried George. 

"No, no," said the Devil. "Just a little farther on." 

They proceeded with the speed of rockets to the northeast cor- 
ner of the universe, which George perceived to be shaped exactly 
like a pint of beer, in which the nebulae were the ascending bub- 
bles. He observed with alarm a pair of enormous lips approaching 
the upper rim of our space. "Do not be alarmed," said the Devil. 
"That is a young medical student called Prior, who has failed his 
exam three times in succession. However, it will be twenty million 
billion light years before his lips reach the glass, for a young 
woman is fixing him with her eye, and by the time he drinks all 
the bubbles will be gone, and all will be flat and stale." 

"Poor fellow!" cried our hero. "Damn these women!" 

"Do not pity him," said the Devil very tolerantly. "This is his 
fifth, and he is already as drunk as a lord, and closing time draws 
near. What's more, our destination is at hand." 

George saw that they were nearing what is sometimes called a 
"fish" in this considerable pint of beer. As they approached it, he 
saw it was a dark star of gigantic proportions, about which circled 
a satellite many hundred times larger than the earth. 

"That satellite," said his conductor, "is the spot I am proposing 
to colonize with my new department. We will go straight there, 
if you wish." 

George assenting, they landed in a sterile and saturnine coun- 
try, close by a palace of black basalt, which covered seven square 
miles of ground. 

"That's a snug-looking box!" cried our hero. 

"Merely a pioneer's hut," said his companion. "My future over- 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [99] 

seer will have to rough it there until something better can be 
run up." 

George, however, observed a prodigious number of barrels 
being run down into a cellar on the hinder side of this palace. 
What's more, he saw several groups of fiends, who should have 
been at their work, squatting in one of the unfinished galleries, 
with cards in their hands. 

"You actually play poker here?" said he, in tones of the liveliest 
satisfaction. 

"We are connoisseurs of every pleasure," replied the Devil, with 
a smile. "And when we play cards, everybody has an excellent 
hand." 

He showed George a number of masterly pictures: some of them 
were a little indecent. There were also very splendid kitchens, 
already staffed with cooks; kennels, stables, falconries, gun rooms, 
grand halls, little cosy rooms, rooms devoted to every sort of 
pastime, and gardens laid out rather like those of Versailles, only 
much larger. There was a whole cellar full of fireworks of every 
description. Not only these, but there were a number of other 
delights, of a nature entirely new to the visitor. There was an 
observatory, for example, from which the behaviour of any young 
woman in the world could be closely inspected. "This is really a 
very interesting device," murmured our hero. 

"Come!" said the fiend. "We must not stay here all day. Doubt- 
less you will want to see the rest of your domain." 

"Yes, indeed," said George. "For of course I could not have the 
prisoners here, unless now and then I had one haled up for special 
admonishment." 

The Devil then flew with him over the whole surface of the 
planet, which, once they were clear of the palace and its lands, 
proved to have an aspect not unlike that of the Great West Road, 
where it approaches London. On every hand, rows of cells were 
being run up; to add the final refinement of misery, they were 
designed exactly like modern villas. Imitation husbands, who 
could neither speak nor hear, were planted in armchairs with their 
feet on the mantelpieces. The wardrobes were full of unfashion- 
able garments. Small imps disguised as children were already re- 
hearsing by dozens in all the upper rooms. The peculiar property 
of the walls was to translate the noise of those next door into the 



[100] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

sound of a party going on, while the windows were so designed as 
to make the dowdiest passer-by appear to be arrayed in the very 
latest mode. 

Vast bunion factories belched smoke among the crazy villas; 
lorry-loads of superfluous hair clattered along the streets. George 
was shown the towering gasometers of the halitosis works, and a 
number of other things I do not dare imagine. He saw a great 
concourse of fiends being instructed in door-to-door salesmanship; 
others were being fitted out as relations-in-law, rent-collectors, 
and bailiffs. He himself made two suggestions that were immedi- 
ately put into force: one was for a stocking ladderer, and the 
other for an elastic that would break in the middle of any crowded 
thoroughfare. 

As a final encouragement, the Devil took him over to the main- 
land of Hell itself, which is girdled by the Styx as Saturn by his 
ring. Charon's vast liner had just come to dock, and our hero had 
the pleasure of seeing a multitude of film-stars, baby blondes, 
unfaithful wives, disobedient daughters, frivolous typists, lazy 
serving-maids, wantons, careless waitresses, cruel charmers, nag- 
gers, sirens, clogs, unpunctual sweethearts, bridge-playing grand- 
mas, extravagant helpmeets, mischief -making gossips, tantalizers, 
female novelists, crazy debutantes, possessive mothers, neglectful 
mothers, modern mothers, unmarried mothers, would-be, should- 
be, in fact all who could be, mothers: they were all there, as naked 
as your hand, and they filed down the gangway, some weeping, 
some brazen, and some in attitudes of affected modesty. 

"This is a magnificent sight," remarked our hero. 

"Well, my dear sir," said the Devil, "are you the man for the 
job?" 

"I will do my best!" cried George enthusiastically. 

They shook hands on it; all the little details were arranged; 
before evening George was installed as principal vassal of all the 
Devil's host, and overlord of a planet populated only by women 
and fiends. 

It must be admitted he enjoyed himself with a vengeance. 
Every day he would go out, having donned his cap of invisibility, 
and regale himself upon his subjects' endeavors to cope with the 
hardships he had designed for them. Sometimes he would hold up 
the ceaseless self-dirtying of plates, put the children to sleep, and 
amuse them with the prospect of a matinee. He saw to it, though, 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [101] 

that they had to queue up for the cheap seats, and arranged for 
it to rain. In the end, he would announce that the show was post- 
poned. 

He had a thousand other ways of tantalizing them: I shall not 
enumerate them all. One of the best was to send for any newly 
arrived young thing who was reported to be vain of her beauty, 
and give her the impression for an hour or two that she had made 
a conquest of him, and then (as far as was possible) undeceive her. 

When the day's work was done, he sat down to cards with his 
principal officers, and sure enough everyone had a good hand, but 
his was the best. They drank like champions: the Devil was con- 
stantly sending over the choicest delicacies from Hell; the word 
"fine" was continually upon our hero's lips, and the time passed 
like lightning. 

One day, towards the end of the second year, our potentate had 
just got through his levee, and was refreshing himself with a stroll 
on a little private terrace which he much affected, when word was 
brought to him that the senior port official desired an audience. 
Our hero was the easiest fellow in the world to approach; never 
stood upon his dignity. "Send the old chap along here," said he. 
"And, hi! Bring a bottle and a couple of glasses back with you 
when you come." 

The fact is, George dearly loved a chat with these old petty 
officers, who occasionally brought him reports of diverting little 
incidents at the Ellis Island of Hell, or scraps of gossip concerning 
the irrelevant affairs of the world, such as sometimes strayed in 
among Charon's cargo, as lizards or butterflies travel to Covent 
Garden among the bananas. 

On this occasion, however, the harbor-master's face bore an 
extremely worried expression. "I'm afraid, sir," he said, "I've got 
a little irregularity to report." 

"Well, we all make mistakes sometimes," said George. "What's 
the trouble?" 

"It's like this here, sir," replied the old salt. "Young gal come 
along o' the last cargo — seems as if she didn't ought to be here 
at all." 

"Oh, that'll be all right," cried George. "Bound to be. It's under- 
stood we take the whole issue in these days. She's a woman: that's 
enough. What's on her charge-sheet, anyway?" 

"Lot o' little things, sir, what don't amount to much," replied 



[102] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

the honest fellow. "Fact is, sir, it ain't added up." And he pursed 
his lips. 

"Not added up?" cried George in amazement. 

"That's how it is, sir," said his subordinate glumly. "This young 
gal ain't properly dead." 

George was absolutely bowled over. "Whew!" said he. "But this 
is serious, my man." 

"It is serious, sir," said the old chap. "I don't know what's to be 
done, I'm sure." 

A score of fine legal points were involved. George dispatched 
an S.O.S. for one of the leading casuists of Hell proper. Unfor- 
tunately they were all engaged in committee, on some fine point 
concerning an illuminated address which was being prepared for 
the saviors of Germany. George therefore had nothing but prece- 
dent to go on, and precedent made it clear that a mortal must sin 
in such and such a way, die in such and such a condition, be 
checked in, checked out: it was as complicated as a case in Court 
Leet under a Statute of Ed. Tert. Rex., that statute being based 
on precedents from the Saxon and Norman codes dually and dif- 
ferently derived from a Roman adaptation of a Grseco-Egyptian 
principle influenced prehistorically by rites and customs from the 
basin of the Euphrates or the Indus. It was quite like an income- 
tax form. George scratched his head in despair. 

What made it all the worse was, the Devil himself had given 
him most serious warning against the least infringement of priv- 
ilege. "This is," he had said, "little better than mandated terri- 
tory. We have built up, step by step, and with incredible ingenu- 
ity, a system under which we live very tolerably, but we have only 
done it by sailing devilishly near the metaphysical wind. One 
single step beyond the strict legal limits, and I am back on my 
red-hot throne, in that pit whose bottomlessness I shall heartily 
envy. As for you " 

George therefore had every incentive to caution. He turned 
over a large number of volumes, tapped his teeth: in the end he 
knew not what to make of it. "Send the young person in to me," 
said he. 

When she arrived, she proved to be no more than seventeen 
years of age. I should be telling a downright lie if I said she was 
less beautiful than a peri. 



, 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [103] 

George was not a bad fellow at heart. Like most of us, he was 
capable of tyranny upon the featureless mass, but when he came 
to grips with an individual his bark was a good deal worse than 
his bite. Most of the young women he had had up for admonish- 
ment had complained of little except his fickleness. 

This young girl was ushered into his presence; the very lackeys 
who brought her in rolled their eyes till the whites flickered like 
the Eddystone Lighthouse. She was complete in every particular, 
and all of the highest quality; she was a picture gallery, an anthol- 
ogy of the poets, a precipitation of all that has ever been dreamed 
of love: her goodly eyes lyke Saphyres shining bright, her fore- 
head yvory white, her cheekes lyke apples which the sun hath 
rudded, her lips lyke cherryes charming men to byte, her brest 
lyke to a bowle of creame uncrudded, her paps lyke lyllies budded, 
her snowie necke lyke to a marble towre; and all her body like a 
pallace fayre, ascending up, with many a stately stayre, to hon- 
ors seat and chastities sweet bowre. 

Her name was Rosie Dixon. Moreover she gained enormously 
in contrast to her surroundings, by the mere fact of being alive. 
It was as though a cowslip were to bloom miraculously between 
the dark and sterile metals of the Underground; as if its scent 
were wafted to one's nostrils on the nasty, sultry, canned sirocco 
of that region. It is no exaggeration to say that she was as good 
as she was beautiful. It is true her pretty face was a little blub- 
bered with tears. "My dear," said George, taking her hand, "there 
is no reason for you to cry in that fashion. Don't you know the 
good old saying, 'Never holler before you're hurt'?" 

"Pray, sir," cried she, having taken a long, dewy peep at his 
monkey-phiz, and seeing a vast amount of good nature there. 
"Pray, sir," said she, "tell me only, where am I?" 

"Why, in Hell, to be sure," said he, with a hearty laugh. 

"Oh, thank goodness!" cried she. "I thought I was in Buenos 
Aires." 

"Most of 'em think that," said our hero, "owing to the liner. 
But I must say you are the first who has shown any gratification 
on learning otherwise." 

They had a little more conversation of this sort; he questioned 
her pretty closely as to how she came to be stowed away on 
Charon's vessel. It appeared that she was a shop-girl who had 



[104] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

been much tormented by her workmates; why, she could not say. 
However, she had to serve a young man who came in to buy some 
stockings for his sister. This young man had addressed to her a 
remark that brought her soul fluttering to her lips. At that very 
moment, the crudest of her envious colleagues had maneuvered 
to pass behind her, and had bestowed on her a pinch so spiteful, 
so sudden, and so intensely and laceratingly agonizing, that her 
poised soul was jolted from its perch: it had spread its wings and 
borne off her swooning body as a woodcock bears off its young. 
When she had regained her senses, she was locked in one of the 
narrow state-rooms of a vast ship, stewarded by what she took to 
be black men, and resounding with the hysterical laughter and 
screams of captives of her own sex. 

George was very thorough: he minutely examined what little 
evidence she had to offer. "There is no doubt," said he at length, 
speaking in tones of the greatest sympathy, "that you have re- 
ceived a very cruel pinch. When your tormentor comes into my 
hands, I myself will repay it a hundredfold." 

"No, no," said she. "She did not mean so much harm. I'm sure 
she is a good girl at heart. It is just her little way." 

George was overcome with admiration at this remark, which, 
however, caused a tremor to pass through the whole of the vast 
black palace. "Upon my word!" said he. "I can't keep you here. 
You will bring the whole place crashing about my ears. I dare not 
put you in one of our punishment cells, for, if I did so against 
your will, all our system of home rule would be snatched away 
from us, and we should return to the crude discomforts of primi- 
tive times. That would be intolerable. There is a museum over on 
the mainland that would make your blood run cold." 

"Could you not send me back to earth?" said she. 

"No woman has ever left this place alone!" cried he in despair. 
"My position is so delicate I dare not make an innovation." 

"Do not take on so," said she. "I cannot bear to think of so kind 
a gentleman being plunged into fiery torments. I will stay volun- 
tarily, and perhaps then no fuss will be made. I hope it will not 
be terribly painful." 

"You adorable creature!" cried he. "I must give you a kiss for 
that. I believe you have solved the difficulty." 

She gave him back his kiss, as sweetly and purely as you can 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [105] 

possibly imagine. "Oh, hell!" he cried in great anguish of spirit. 
"I cannot bear to think of you undergoing the miseries of this 
place. My dear, good girl " 

"I don't mind," she said. "I have worked in a shop in Oxford 
Street." 

He gave her a pat or two, and signed up a form for her: "Re- 
manded in custody at own request." 

"This is only temporary, after all," he said. "Otherwise I would 
not permit it." 

Very well, she kept a stiff upper lip, and was carted off to a 
hateful box as cruelly equipped as any of the others. For a whole 
week George kept his head, reading love lyrics to distract his 
mind. At the end, he could put the matter behind him no longer. 
"I must go," said he, "and see how she is getting on." 

In Hell, all the officials travel with incredible speed. In a very 
few minutes George had passed over a couple of continents, and 
was tapping at the mean front door of poor Rosie's little habita- 
tion. He had not chosen to put on his cap of fern-seed virtue, or 
perhaps he never thought of it: anyway, she came to the door 
with three or four of the imps hanging about her apron-strings, 
and recognized him at once. He observed that she had on the 
drab and unfashionable garments provided by the authorities, in 
which her appearance was that of a rose in a jam-pot. 

What raised an intolerable burden from his heart was the fact 
that the superfluous hair had obviously failed to take root upon 
her living flesh. He found on inquiry that she had used it to stuff 
a pillow with, which she had placed behind the head of the snor- 
ing imitation husband who gracelessly sprawled before the fire. 
She admitted a little tuft flourished on the bruise, where she had 
been pinched. 

"No doubt it will fall off," said our hero scientifically, "when 
the tissues resume their normal condition. These things were de- 
signed to flourish upon carrion only, whereas you — " and he 
smacked his lips. 

"I hope it will fall off," said she, "for scissors will not cut it. 
And since I promised some to the eldest of these toddlers, to make 
him a false moustache of, no more has arrived." 
"Shall I try to cut it off?" said our hero. 
"No, no," said she, with a blush. "He has stopped crying now. 



[106] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

They were all very querulous when first I came here, but now they 
are improved out of all knowledge." 

While she spoke, she busied her ringers with a succession of 
little tasks. "You seem to be terribly busy," complained George. 

"Forgive me," said she, with a smile, "but there is such a terrible 
lot to do. Still, it makes the time pass." 

"Do you never," said he, "wish to go to the matinee?" 

"That would never do," she replied. "Supposing he should wake 
up" (pointing to the imitation husband) "and call for his tea. 
Besides, I have plenty of entertainment: the people next door 
seem always to have a party; it does me good to hear them laugh 
and sing. What's more, when I'm cleaning the windows, as needs 
doing pretty often, I always see the most beautifully dressed 
creatures go by. I love to see people in pretty clothes." 

"Your own are not very attractive," said George in a melan- 
choly tone. 

"They are plain enough," said she, with a laugh. "But I'm far 
too busy to think about that. All I could wish is that they were 
of slightly stronger materials. The stockings laddered so often I've 
had to give up wearing them. And whenever I go out shopping — 
Still, you don't want to hear all this." 

George was so devoured by remorse that he had not the spirit 
to ask an interesting question. "Good-bye," said he, pressing her 
hand. 

She gave him the sweetest glance: he felt it no more than his 
duty to offer her an encouraging kiss. The doors began to bang, 
the fire belched smoke, the imps opened their mouths to yell. 

"No, no," said she, with just so much of inexpressible regret as 
to soften the cruelty of it. And she pointed to the dummy husband 
before the fire. 

"Don't worry about him!" cried our hero. "He's only a dummy." 
With that, he gave the image a kick, capsizing it into the 
hearth. 

"Well, if he's not a real husband," said Rosie, "I suppose there 
is nothing wrong in it." And with that she gave George a kiss, 
which he found altogether delightful, except that as it increased 
the high esteem in which he held her, so also it increased his misery 
in having placed her in such a condition. 

When he got home, the poor fellow could neither eat nor sleep. 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [107] 

He called up a few of his officers to pass away the night at poker, 
but though he held four straight flushes in succession, he could 
take no pleasure in it. In the morning, the telephone bell rang. 
George's was the only instrument on the planet which did not go 
wrong as soon as one began to speak; on this occasion he would 
willingly have surrendered the advantage. The Devil was at the 
other end, and he was in a towering rage. He made no bones about 
accusing our hero of downright morality. 

"You curse and swear very well," said the victim in an injured 
tone. "All the same, it was not my fault she came here. I clearly 
see she may prove a disintegrating influence if I keep her, but, if 
I may not send her back, I don't see what else I can do." 

"Why, tempt her, you idiot!" replied the Devil. "Have you 
never tempted woman before?" 

"As far as I know, no," said George frankly. 

"Well, do so now," said the Devil in quite a silky tone, which 
nevertheless caused blue sparks to crackle from the instrument. 
"Once we get possession of her soul, there will not be much fuss 
made about her body. I leave the matter in your hands entirely. 
If you fail me, there are one or two ancient institutions over here 
which I shall take pleasure in reviving entirely for your benefit." 

George detested the idea of tempting this singularly good and 
beautiful young girl; however, the prospect was not so unredeem- 
edly repulsive as that of immersion in boiling brimstone. He took 
a glass or two, to stifle what regrets he had, and sent for Rosie to 
attend him in a silken pavilion, which he had rigged up among the 
groves and fountains which enclosed his citadel. He considered this 
fabric to be preferable to blocks of black basalt, in the event of 
some disruptive phrase of hers bringing the roof about their ears. 

It was not very long before she arrived, although it seemed so. 
Heaven knows how she preserved her radiant health in the nasty 
grey air of Hell's outer suburbs: she looked as fresh and bright as 
ever, and seemed to glow through her cheerless wrappings as a 
peach glows through tissue paper. Nevertheless, George was natu- 
rally a slow starter, especially when his conscience was involved. 
He certainly greeted her very warmly, but if all the scientists in 
the world had had these hugs and kisses in a test tube, they could 
not have separated one atom of sin out of them, for they were as 
simple and natural as could possibly be desired. 



[108] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

I admit the simple and natural is as good a beginning as any 
other. George, however, proceeded only to the offer of a cup of 
tea, which is not sinful except at the University. They began to 
chat: he was unable to resist telling her of his joys and sorrows 
in the neighborhood of the Tottenham Court Road, and the reason 
for this was that he wished her to know everything about him. 
She herself was no less frank: it is impossible to describe the emo- 
tion with which George heard that she had become an orphan at 
the age of fourteen, and had since then lived with an old aunt, 
who was inclined to severity. The moments passed like flowers 
of that precious edelweiss joy which blooms on the brink of the 
abyss. 

The light began to fade; the warbling of blackbirds and thrushes 
now sank into a stillness from which soon arose the diviner strains 
of the nightingale. Our young people, seated at the entrance of 
the tent, found their tongues fall idle, and sat in a divine languor 
which, also, like a silence of the being, permitted the first faint 
notes of a new music to become audible in their hearts. In this 
far, wild corner of the garden, the effect was a little Chinese, with 
a profusion of willow trees, which now turned blue in the dim- 
ming air. 

Their fingers interlocked. The moon, which in those parts is of 
gigantic size, being no other than Hell itself, rose behind the 
shadowy trees. "They say," said Rosie in a dreamy voice, "that 
those marks on it are craters." 

One person's dream may well be another's awakening. George 
was at once galvanized into activity. "Come," said he. "It is time 
we began dinner. It's my birthday, so there's lots of champagne." 

He hoped by these words to inveigle the simple girl into making 
a feast of it. However, he started under a handicap, for he was 
already as drunk as a lord on the very sound of her voice. A man's 
true nature appears when he is in that condition: George was 
prepared to jeopardize his whole future for an amorous whim. His 
brain reeled under the onslaught of a legion of virtuous thoughts. 
He even conceived the notion of suggesting to the Devil that it 
should be the dummy husband who should be cast into the boiling 
brimstone, and that he should take that useless effigy's place, but 
from this act of madness the thought of the imps restrained him. 

The remembrance of his master brought him back to Hell for a 






The Devil, George, and Rosie [109] 

moment. "My dear," said he, patting her hand, "how would you 
like to be a film-star?" 

"Not at all," said she. 

"What?" said he. 

"Not at all," said she. 

"Oh!" said he. "Well! Well! Well!" 

He had a diamond necklace in his pocket, ready to tempt her 
with, but could not restrain himself from hanging it uncondition- 
ally about her neck, he was so delighted by this answer of hers. 

She was pleased, even more than by the gift itself, by the spirit 
in which it was given. She thought George the kindest and the 
best of men, and (whether it was the wine or not, I'll not say) she 
would have even stuck to it that he was handsome. 

Altogether, the meal went off as merry as a marriage bell; the 
only drawback was that George could see no signs of a fitting 
sequel. Some would say the brimstone was a sequel sufficiently 
appropriate: that was not George's idea at all. In fact, when he 
had played all his cards in this half-hearted fashion, he was sud- 
denly overcome by a hideous prevision of his fate, and could not 
repress a most alarming groan. 

"What is it, my dear?" cried Rosie, in the tenderest of voices. 

"Oh, nothing," said he, "nothing at all. Only that I shall burn 
for ever if I fail to seduce you." 

"That is what the young man said at the stocking counter," 
said she in dismay. 

"But I mean it," said he dolorously, "and in brimstone, which, 
I assure you, is altogether a different proposition from love, what- 
ever the poets may say." 

"You are right," said she, in a happier voice than seemed en- 
tirely fitting, "love is altogether different from brimstone," and 
with that she squeezed his hand. 

"I fear it will give me no peace in which to remember you," said 
he, positively photographing her with his eyes. 

"You shall not go there," said she. 

"He said I must!" cried George. 

"Not," said she, "if — if it will save you to " 

"To what?" cried George. 

"To seduce me," faltered Rosie. 

George protested very little; he was altogether carried away by 



[110] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

the charming manner in which she expressed herself. He flung his 
arms about her, and endeavored to convey, in one single kiss, all 
his gratitude for her kindness, his admiration for her beauty, his 
respect for her character, and his regret that she should have 
been orphaned at the age of fourteen and left to the care of an 
aunt who was a little inclined to severity. This is a great deal to 
be expressed in one single kiss: nevertheless, our hero did his best. 

Next morning, he had to telephone his report to the Devil. "I'll 
hold your hand," said Rosie. 

"Very well, my darling," said he. "I shall feel better so." 

His call was put through like lightning. The Devil, like thunder, 
asked him how he had got on. 

"The young woman is seduced," said George, in a rather 
brusque tone. 

"Excellent!" returned his master. "Now tell me exactly how it 
happened." 

"I thought," said George, "that you were supposed to be a 
gentleman." 

"I am inquiring," said the Devil, "in a strictly professional ca- 
pacity. What I wish to get at is her motive in yielding to your 
almost too subtle charm." 

"Why?" cried George. "You don't think that splendid girl would 
see me frizzling and frying in a lake of boiling brimstone?" 

"Do you mean to say," cried the Devil in a terrifying voice, 
"that she has sacrificed her virtue merely to save you from punish- 
ment?" 

"What other inducement," asked our hero, "do you imagine 
would have been likely to prevail?" 

"You besotted fool!" cried his master, and proceeded to abuse 
him ten times more roundly than before. 

George listened in fear and rage. When he had done cursing him, 
the Devil continued in a calmer voice, "There is only one thing to 
be done," said he, "and you may consider yourself very fortunate 
that you (you worm!) are needed to play a part in it. Otherwise 
you would be frizzling before sunset. As it is, I see I must give the 
matter my individual attention, and the first step is that you must 
marry the girl." 

"By all means," replied our hero briskly. 

"I shall send you a bishop to perform the ceremony," continued 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [HI] 

the fiend, "and next week, if I am better of my present fit of the 
gout, I shall require you to present me to your wife, and I myself 
will undertake her temptation." 

"Temptation to what?" asked George, in a tone of great anxiety. 

"To that sin to which wives are peculiarly fitted," replied the 
Devil. "Does she like a waxed moustache?" 

"Oh dear! He says," whispered George to Rosie, "do you like a 
waxed moustache?" 

"No, darling," said Rosie. "I like a bristly, sandy one, like 
yours." 

"She says she likes a bristly, sandy one, like mine," said George, 
not entirely without complacency. 

"Excellent! I will appear in one yet bristlier and sandier," re- 
plied the fiend. "Keep her by you. I have never failed yet. And, 
Postlethwaite- " 

"Oh, yes, yes," said George. "What is it now?" 

"Be discreet," said the Devil, in a menacing tone. "If she gets 
wind of my intentions, you shall be in the brimstone within an 
hour." 

George hung up the receiver. "Excuse me, my dear," he said, 
"I really must go and think over what I have just heard." 

He walked out among his groves of willows, which were then all 
freshened by the morning dew, and resounding with the songs of 
birds. It was, of all the mornings of his life, that on which he would 
most have appreciated his first cigarette, had it not been for his 
conversation with the Devil. As it was, he did not bother to light 
one. "The thing is," he said to himself, "he must either succeed or 
fail. In the latter case his fury will be intolerable; in the former 
case mine will be." 

The problem seemed to defy solution, and so it would have 
done, had it not been that love, whose bemusing effects have been 
celebrated often enough in song and story, has another and an 
ungratefully neglected aspect, in which the mind receives the 
benefit of clarifying calm. When the first flurry of his perturbation 
had passed, our hero found himself in possession of a mind as cool 
and unclouded as the sea-strand sky of earliest dawn. He imme- 
diately lit his cigarette. 

"After all, we have some days to go," he murmured, "and time 
is entirely relative. Consider, for example, that fellow Prior, who 



[112] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

is at this very moment about to drink up the universe, and who 
will still be arrested in the act of doing so long after all our little 
lives have passed away. On the other hand, it is certainly not for 
me to deny that certain delightful moments can take on the aspect 
of eternity. Besides, we might always escape." 

The thought had entered his mind as unostentatiously as, no 
doubt, the notion of writing Paradise Lost entered Milton's — 
"H'm, I'll write Paradise Lost" "Besides, we might always es- 
cape." Just a few words, which, however, made all the difference. 
All that remained, in one case as in the other, was to work out the 
little details. 

Our hero was ingenious. What's more, he was assisted in his 
reflections by the hoarse cry, like that of a homing swan, of 
Charon's siren. It was the hour when that worthy, having cast 
loose from the quays of Hell, where he dropped his male cargo, 
turned his great ship towards George's planet. It came into sight, 
cleaving the morning blue, flashing in the beams of the local sun, 
leaving behind it a wake like that of a smoke-trailing aeroplane, 
only altogether better. It was a glorious sight. Soon George could 
see the women scampering up and down the decks, and hear their 
cry: "Is that Buenos Aires?" 

He lost no time, but, repairing to his palace, and seating himself 
in the most impressive of its salons, he sent forth a messenger to 
the docks, saying, "Bid the skipper come up and have a word 
with me." 

Charon soon came stumping along in the wake of the messenger. 
He might have been inclined to grumble, but his eyes brightened 
at the sight of a bottle George had on his desk. This contained 
nothing less than the Old Original Rum of Hell, a liquor of the 
fieriest description, and now as rare as it is unappreciated. 

"Skipper," said George, "you and I have got on well enough 
hitherto, I believe. I have to ask you a question, which may seem 
to reflect a little on your capacities. However, I don't ask it on my 
own behalf, you may be sure, and in order to show my private 
estimation of you as a friend, as a man, and above all as a sea-dog 
of the old school, I am going to ask you to do me the favor of 
taking a little tipple with me first." 

Charon was a man of few words. "Aye! Aye!" said he. 

George then poured out the rum. When Charon had wet his 



The Devil, George, and Rosie [113] 

whistle, "The chief," said George, "is in a secret fury with you 
over Mrs. Soames of Bays water." 

"Avast," said Charon, with a frown. 

"Has it slipped your memory that I mentioned her to you on 
two previous occasions?" continued our hero. "She is now a hun- 
dred and four, and as cross as two sticks. The chief wants to know 
why you have not brought her along months ago." As he spoke, he 
refilled Charon's glass. 

"Avast," said that worthy again. 

"Perhaps," said George, "among your manifold onerous duties, 
his express commands concerning one individual may have 
seemed unworthy of your attention. I'm sure J should have for- 
gotten the matter altogether, had I such a job as yours. Still, you 
know what he is. He has been talking of changes at the Admiralty: 
however, pay no attention to that. I have to visit the earth myself 
on important business, and I find that the young woman you 
brought by such a regrettable mistake has had training as a hos- 
pital nurse. Between us, I assure you, we will shanghai the old 
geezer in a brace of shakes; the chief will find her here when he 
recovers from his gout, and foul weather between you will be 
entirely averted." 

With that he poured the rest of the rum into the old salt's glass. 

"Aye! Aye!" said that worthy. 

George at once pressed the bell, and had Rosie ushered in, in a 
bewitching uniform. "To the ship, at once!" he cried. 

"Aye! Aye!" cried Charon. 

"I can take you back," whispered George to his beloved, "as 
long as you don't look round. If you do, we are lost." 

"Depend upon me," she said. "Nothing will ever make me cast 
a single glance behind while you and I are together." 

Very well, they got aboard. Charon believed all landlubbers 
were mad; moreover, he had long suspected machinations against 
him at headquarters, and was obliged to George for giving him 
word of them. George ordered a whole case of the admirable rum 
(the last case in existence) to be placed in his cabin, lest Charon 
should remember that old Mrs. Soames had never been mentioned 
to him at all. 

Amid hoots and exclamations in technical language the great 
ship left her moorings. George, on the pretext that he had to main- 



[114] The Devil, George, and Rosie 

tain constant communication with his chief, took over the wireless 
operator's cabin. You may be sure Satan was in a fury when he 
heard what had happened; but the only effect of that was that 
his gouty members became a thousand times worse inflamed, and 
grew still more so when he found it impossible to establish com- 
munication with the ship. 

The best he could do was to conjure up, in the trackless wastes 
of space, such dumb images as might tempt Rosie to glance behind 
her. A Paris hat would bob up like a buoy on the starboard bow, 
and a moment later (so great was the speed of the ship) be toss- 
ing far astern. On other occasions, the images of the most famous 
film-actors would be descried sitting on the silver planets of far 
constellations, combing their hair. She was exposed to a hundred 
temptations of this sort, and, what was cruder, she was subjected, 
by pursuant imps, to ceaseless tweakings of the hair, tuggings of 
the garments, sensations as of a spider down her back, and to all 
sorts of odious familiarities, far better imagined than described. 
The devoted girl, holding fast to the forward rail of the boat-deck, 
never so much as flickered an eye. 

The result of this devotion, coupled with George's vigilance at 
the earphones and Charon's drunkenness below, was that they 
soon heaved to in the latitudes of the earth. George and Rosie 
were set to slide at dizzy speed down an invisible rope, and they 
found themselves safely in bed beside the old centenarian, Mrs. 
Soames. 

She was in a tearing rage when she found this young couple 
beside her. "Get out of here at once!" she cried. 

"All right," they said, "we will." 

The very next day I met them in Oxford Street, looking in the 
windows of the furniture shops, and George acquainted me with 
the whole story. 

"And you say," said I, "that the universe is really a vast pint 
of beer?" 

"Yes," said he. "It is all true. To prove it, I will show you the 
very place where Rosie was pinched by the envious young 
woman." 

"The very place?" I cried. 

"Yes," said he. "It was in that shop over there, at the counter 
to the right as you go in, just at the end of the stockings, and 
before the beginning of the lingerie." 



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GREAT 



POSSIBILITIES 



jZI?f»ZiJfj!lIf3lIJfjUt GREAT POSSIBILITIES ^^^^ 



THERE ARE CERTAIN PEOPLE WHO DO NOT COME TO FULL FLOWER 

till they are at least fifty. Among these are all males named 
Murchison. A Mr. Murchison is nothing without pink cheeks, 
white whiskers, and vintage port. There are no females of this 
name, except by accident. In fact, one wonders how the breed is 
continued, since bachelorhood is a fourth essential attribute of a 
true Murchison. Fortunately, they tend to be lawyers of the old- 
fashioned school, and old-fashioned family lawyers know all sorts 
of peculiar secrets. 

By keeping at it twenty-four hours a day, and for well over fifty 
years, Mr. Benjamin Murchison had succeeded in becoming a 
nearly perfect specimen of his race. He was fit to be stuffed and 
put in a museum, although there, of course, he could not have 
beamed and twinkled so benevolently. 

He was very comfortably off, and could have been really 
wealthy, but certain of the more remunerative fields of law were 
not entirely to his taste. Indeed, he had become so fastidious that 
he would have retired completely, but many of his old friends had 
died and had left estates to be divided among their children, and 
to all these numerous broods Mr. Murchison was guardian, trus- 
tee, adviser, friend, and uncle. 

Nothing delighted him more than to pay visits to his young 
friends, and nothing delighted them more than to have him. 

Although nearly perfect, Mr. Murchison had one little eccen- 
tricity, which he kept extremely private. It was a mere nothing, a 
thought, a whim; it seems almost unfair to mention it. The fact 
is, he felt that nothing in the world would be nicer than to set fire 
to a house and watch it blaze. 

What is the harm in that? Who has not had a similar bright 
vision at some time or other? There is no doubt about it; it would 
be nice, very nice indeed, absolutely delightful. But most of us 
are well broken in and we dismiss the idea as impracticable. Mr. 

[U6] 



Great Possibilities [117] 

Murchison found that it took root in his mind and blossomed 
there like a sultry flower. 

When thoughts of this delightful description occurred to him, 
which was increasingly often, he would smile all over his face and 
rub his hands together with a zest that was very pleasant to be- 
hold. Having rubbed them, he would spread them out, as if to 
enjoy the cheerful blaze of a Christmas fire. Nothing could be 
more benevolent than his aspect when indulging in this little 
mannerism. Young wives who had married into the circle of his 
wards and proteges would at once think of him as a godfather. 

Mr. Murchison was always the first to inspect and praise a new 
home. "Ah!" said he, on looking over Millicent and Rodney's, "I 
am glad you have chosen the Colonial style. I am glad you have 
built in wood; it is a fine tradition. It is cool in summer, and can 
be warm, very warm, in winter. Of course you have a good cellar? 
Excellent! Excellent! And there is your front door; the back door, 
I suppose, is through there? Yes, that is beautifully planned. A 
fine current of air — there is nothing like it. I like these long dra- 
peries, Millicent. Some people like little, skimpy, short draperies; 
I vastly prefer long ones. Well, you have a delightful home, my 
dears. I hope you have it completely insured." 

"Oh, yes. We have the house covered," Rodney said. "But as 
for Millie's precious antiques — you know how she absolutely wore 
herself to death going round picking them up at auctions. Well, 
you can't insure blood and sweat, of course. She'd be absolutely 
brokenhearted if anything happened. Still, touching wood, let's 
hope it won't. How did we get talking about this sort of thing 
anyway?" 

At this, Mr. Murchison lost a little of his sparkle, but the fol- 
lowing week he motored up to Buck and Ida's, a fine old place on 
a hill in the Berkshires, and four miles from a one-horse fire sta- 
tion. The situation was superb. Probably on a clear, windy night 
the house, ablaze, would have been visible fifty miles away. But 
Buck was an architect, and his competition plans were all done in 
his spare time at home. His study was full of them. 

At Dick and Lucy's there were three high gables, rich with 
promise of the most dramatic effects imaginable, so Mr. Murchi- 
son rubbed his hands like an Indian rubbing two sticks of wood. 
"You rub your hands so briskly, Uncle Ben," said Lucy, smiling 



[US] Great Possibilities 

happily at the sight of him. "One would almost expect to see 
sparks flying from your fingers. Electricity, you know." She went 
on to tell how Dick's book on insect civilizations was nearly 
finished, notes and draft chapters littered all over the house — five 
years of work — and soon he would be famous. 

So Mr. Murchison travelled on. Cecily had all her father's 
books, John had the family portraits, Tom and Lisbeth had little 
Tom and little Lisbeth. 

Sometimes, when Mr. Murchison went walking in the mornings 
during his weekend visits, he was reduced to hailing some passing 
farmhand and asking to whom that old barn belonged, and if the 
owner might be likely to take a price for it just as it stood. But 
he speedily dismissed impulses of that sort as altogether un- 
worthy. 

Pity this sweet-natured old gentleman, compelled to visit a 
tantalizing succession of wooden houses and always finding some 
little obstacle which would have deterred no one less goodhearted 
than himself. 

At length a letter reached Mr. Murchison from Mark and 
Vicky, whom he had not seen for rather a long time, begging him, 
with exclamation marks, to come and inspect their new, magnifi- 
cent abode. "Come and warm the place up for us!" they said. He 
went the very next weekend, and Mark and Vicky met him at the 
station. 

"Now, what is all this?" said he. "A new house, and this is the 
first I hear of it! You may imagine I am all agog. Tell me, is it one 
you have built or — " 

"Ask Mark," said Vicky in a disgruntled tone. "It's nothing to 
do with me. Except I have to live in it." 

"It was my mother's uncle's," said Mark, dealing ferociously 
with the gears of the car. "And now it's mine." 

"The sins of the mother's uncles are visited on the children," 
said Vicky, with an obvious effort at good humor. 

"But what about your little place at Willowdale?" asked Mr. 
Murchison. "I thought you were so very fond of it." 

"We were," said Mark. 

"Don't make me weep," said Vicky. "When I think of the 
garden — " 

"Yes, don't make her weep," said Mark. "We had to rent Wil- 



Great Possibilities [H&] 



lowdale. You see, we have to pay the taxes on this place. Twenty- 
eight rooms! You can't rent it, you can't sell it. So we had to move 
in. Here's the gate. Now you'll see it. Look." 

"Dear me!" said Mr. Murchison. "Dear me!" 

"That's what everyone says," said Vicky. "A castle on the 
Rhine, built in clapboard!" 

"The other side has a touch of the Taj Mahal," said Mark. 

"Well, well, well!" said Mr. Murchison. "And yet — and yet, you 
know, perhaps you think I am old-fashioned, but I feel it has 
possibilities. Those pinnacles! Those things which conceivably 
may have been meant to suggest flying buttresses! And that 
minaret-like structure at the very top of all! Seen under the right 
conditions . . ." And he beamed more jovially than he had beamed 
for months. 

"Oh, come, Uncle Ben!" said Vicky. 

"Never mind me," said he, rubbing his hands. "Never mind an 
old fogy. Perhaps I am a little eccentric. I must confess it needs 
a spark of imagination. But then — yes, it has possibilities. The 
insurance must be very high." 

"The rascals have had a fortune in premiums," said Mark. "I'm 
going to stop it. However, let me take your bags." 

"Mind the big box," said Mr. Murchison. "It's just a dozen of 
a little wine I thought you'd like. Put it down in the cellar and 
I'll unpack it myself before dinner." 

Mr. Murchison frequently took presents of wine to his young 
friends. He felt it was one of the gracious duties of a quasi-uncle. 
He also felt the straw bottle-wrappers might somehow come in 
handy. 

They went into the house, and Vicky, with bitter mirth, showed 
him a vast succession of rooms through which the wind whistled, 
as if to keep up its spirits. 

"We just live in a corner of the damned place," said Vicky, 
"and we'll end up all thin and dry and pale, with great, long nails, 
among cobwebs." 

"Oh, come!" said Mr. Murchison. "I'm sure something will turn 
up. We must get the neighbors to come round. A little light, a 
little warmth, a little bustle and the old place will seem quite dif- 
ferent. Believe me, my dear, things may change overnight." 

And, indeed, when Mr. Murchison went down to unpack the 



[120] Great Possibilities 

wine, it really seemed as if they would. He made admirable dis- 
position of the straw wrappers in which the bottles were packed 
and emerged from the cellar in the highest of spirits, rubbing his 
hands with a gusto that would have warmed the cockles of your 
heart. It was as well that he was so jovial, for otherwise dinner 
would have been a very gloomy meal. Mark and Vicky were 
already far into the bickering stage. 

"I can't help it," said Mark, in reply to complaints he had obvi- 
ously heard before. "I've told you a hundred times we'll clear out 
as soon as we can afford to." 

"Can you beat that, Uncle Ben?" cried Vicky. "As soon as we 
can afford to live in tiny six-roomed Willowdale!" 

"Oh, please forget it!" said Mark, rather loudly. "Just for a little 
while." 

"Don't shout," said Vicky. "I don't wonder Uncle Ben sniffs at 
you." 

"What?" said Mr. Murchison. "Sniff? At Mark? Never in my 
life." 

"Good heavens! Can it be the fish?" cried Vicky. "Please say 
so, Uncle Ben, if it is." 

"No, no," said he. "It is excellent." 

"But you don't eat it," said she. "You do nothing but sniff." 

"On my word, Vicky," said Mr. Murchison, defending his plate, 
"I am enjoying myself enormously." 

"Don't tell me," said Vicky. "If the fish is all right, you must 
have a cold. Oh dear!" 

"No, I have not," said he. "But that reminds me. The nights 
are getting brisk. I hope you have a warm wrap handy, my dear." 

"Oh, I am warm enough," said Vicky. "But are you cold? The 
heating here is like everything else." 

"Thank you," said he. "I am very comfortable. I just thought 
— if we should go outside. On the lawn, you know." 

"The lawn?" said Mark. "Go out on the lawn? Why should we 
go out on the lawn?" 

"Ah, yes! You are right. Why should we?" said Mr. Murchison 
in some confusion. "A very sensible question. Now, what put the 
idea into my head? How ridiculous! Let us forget it. Tell me, 
Mark, who built this amazing place?" 

"It was my Great-Uncle Coxon," said Mark. 



Great Possibilities [ 121 ] 

"Coxon? Do you mean the banker?" asked Mr. Murchison. 

"Yes," said Mark. "And they used to wonder why banks failed!" 

"He was the father of the famous Annabel Coxon," said Vicky. 
"The great beauty. You must have known her, Uncle Ben. Were 
you one of her admirers?" 

"Well . . ." said Mr. Murchison, his smile fading. 

"This," said Mark, "is the scene of her adorable girlhood. Her 
little white bedroom was presumably in some goddam turret." 

"She was born here. Yes, of course. She was a child here," mur- 
mured Mr. Murchison, now not smiling at all. 

"It was her bower," said Mark, "the scene of her maiden 
dreams. Her lovely ghost is probably scampering around upstairs 
at this moment. In pantalettes, or whatever they wore. I wish 
I could meet it." 

"Uncle Ben is not amused," said Vicky. "I bet you were in love 
with her, Uncle Ben. Do tell." 

"I? What a notion! Dear me!" said Mr. Murchison, looking 
quite shaken. "At all events, she was a lovely creature. Yes. 'Her 
lovely ghost,' you said. Quite a felicitous expression! Well, well, 
well!" 

"But seriously," said Mark, "isn't it extraordinary? She prob- 
ably loved this place, which is driving us melancholy mad." 

"She did," said Mr. Murchison. "I remember her describing it. 
Yes, she did indeed." 

"Was she pretty?" asked Vicky. "Was she full of life?" 

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Murchison. "Very lovely. Very alive. Alive 
in a way — well, perhaps I'm growing old. In these days people 
don't seem to be alive that way. Alive like a bird singing. Except, 
of course, you, my dear," he added politely. 

"And was she nice?" said Vicky. 

"Yes," said Mr. Murchison. "Very nice. Later on, some people 
thought, she grew a little — different. But she was so young when 
first I knew her. She must have just come from this house. Yes, 
very nice. 'Her lovely ghost!' Dear me! Well, I'm glad you are 
looking after the old place, my boy. It would be a pity if — if it 
went to ruin. Oh, my God!" 

"What? What is it, Uncle Ben?" 

"What is that I smell?" cried he. "Do I smell burning? I do!" 

"Burning?" said Mark. 



[122] Great Possibilities 

"I know!" cried Mr. Murchison. "Keep your heads, pray! Re- 
main precisely where you are! I shall be back in a moment." And 
he darted from the room. 

"Well, I'll be damned!" said Mark to Vicky after they had 
stared at one another for a time. "Has the old boy gone crazy, or 
what?" 

"I think I did smell smoke," said she. "Can he have left a ciga- 
rette in the cellar, do you think?" 

"Maybe," said Mark. "I suppose he'll shout if it's anything 
serious." 

Soon afterward, Mr. Murchison returned. "Nothing at all," said 
he, smiling. "Just my fancy. I knew it." 

"But you have a great smear of black on your face," said Vicky. 
"And look at your hands! Uncle Ben, you left a cigarette in the 
cellar." 

"Well," said he, "perhaps I did. I confess I did. Don't be angry 
with me, Vicky." 

"Angry!" said Mark, laughing. "We are, though — for putting 
it out. Why didn't you let the confounded place burn down?" 

"My dear boy," said Mr. Murchison, "I know you are joking. 
That would be a very serious crime. Arson, in fact. Besides, a 
house, you know, is not like a — a haystack. There is something 
alive about an old house, Mark. It has its memories." 

"When we go," said Mark, "this house will have a hangover." 

"I can't help feeling you somehow don't care very much for the 
place," said Mr. Murchison. "You said you find it hard to rent or 
sell?" 

"Not hard," said Mark. "Impossible." 

"Not impossible," said Mr. Murchison. "You could sell it to 
me. 

"You, Uncle Ben?" cried Vicky. "You live in this dismal place? 
Alone?" 

"I don't think it dismal," said Mr. Murchison. "I don't think I 
should feel lonely." 

Everything was speedily arranged. In a very few weeks, Mark 
and Vicky were back at Willowdale. Various other friends of Mr. 
Murchison's dropped in to see them. "How is he getting on?" they 
asked. "Does he like it?" 

"He thinks it's fine," said Mark. "You know, the old boy really 



Great Possibilities [123] 

is marvellous. Always the perfect type. He's the eccentric squire 
nowadays. Have you heard about him and the fire brigade?" 

"No. Let's hear it," they cried. 

"Well," said Mark, "first of all he raised hell. He said the service 
wasn't efficient. He wrote letters, called a meeting, went round to 
all the farmers — God knows what all." 

"And then?" 

"Then he must have waved a check at 'em or something. They 
elected him chairman, captain, the whole works. We were over 
that way last week; they all said he drills hell out of 'em. And we 
saw them charge through the village with the new engine, and 
there was Uncle Ben sitting up by the driver, smiling all over his 
face, with a damned great axe in his hand." 

"He always was a bit fussy about the chance of fire," said the 
others. 



IIMMMty^ 



HALF-WAY 
TO HELL 



jj^fmfjmfjfj^fmjffff^ //jjt jf_ j/pj Y TO HELL J!!jjj!!!fJll!fj!!!fJ!IJjj!!jf 



LOUIS THURLOW, HAVING DECIDED TO TAKE HIS OWN LIFE, FELT THAT 

at least he might take his own time also. He consulted his pass- 
book: there was a little over a hundred pounds left. "Very well," 
said he. "I'll get out of this flat, which stinks, and spend a really 
delightful week at Mutton's. I'll taste all the little pleasures just 
once more, to say good-bye to them." 

He engaged his suite at Mutton's, where he kept the page-boys 
on the run. At one moment they had to rush round into Piccadilly 
to buy him chrysanthemums, in which to smell the oncoming 
autumn, which he would never see. Next they were sent to Soho 
to get him some French cigarettes, to put him in mind of a certain 
charming hotel which overlooked the Seine. He had also a little 
Manet sent round by the Neuilly Galleries — "To try living with," 
he said, with the most whimsical smile. You may be sure he ate 
and drank the very best: just a bite of this and a glass of that, he 
had so many farewells to take. 

On the last night of all he telephoned Celia, whose voice he felt 
inclined to hear once more. He did not speak, of course, though he 
thought of saying, "You should really not keep on repeating 
'Hallo,' but say 'Good-bye.' " However, she had said that already, 
and he had been taught never to sacrifice good taste to a bad mot. 

He hung up the receiver, and opened the drawer in which he 
had stored his various purchases of veronal tablets. 

"It seems a great deal to get down," he thought. "Everything 
is relative. I prided myself on not being one of those panic- 
stricken, crack-brained suicides who rush to burn out their guts 
with gulps of disinfectant; now it seems scarcely less civilized to 
end this pleasant week with twenty hard swallows and twenty 
sips of water. Still, life is like that. I'll take it easy." 

Accordingly he arranged his pillows very comfortably, con- 
gratulated himself on his pyjamas, and propped up a photograph 
against his bedside clock. "I have no appetite," he said. "I force 

1126] 






Half -Way to Hell [127] 



myself to eat as a duty to my friends. There is no bore like a 
despairing lover." And with that he began to toy with this last, 
light, plain little meal. 

The tablets were not long in taking effect. Our hero closed his 
eyes. He put on a smile such as a man of taste would wish to wear 
when found in the morning. He shut off that engine which drives 
us from one moment to the next, and prepared to glide into the 
valley of the shadow. 

The glide was a long one. He anticipated no landing, and was 
the more surprised to learn that there is no such thing as nothing, 
while there is quite definitely such a thing as being dead in the 
most comfortable bedroom in all Mutton's Hotel. 

"Here I am/' he said. "Dead! In Mutton's Hotel!" 

The idea was novel enough to make him get out of bed at once. 
He noticed that his corpse remained there, and was glad to ob- 
serve that the smile was still in place, and looked extremely well. 

He strolled across to the mirror to see if his present face was 
capable of an equally subtle expression, but when he came to 
look in he saw nothing at all. Nevertheless he obviously had arms 
and legs, and he felt that he could still do his old trick with his 
eyebrows, from which he assumed that he was much the same, 
only different. 

"I am just invisible," he said, "and in that there are certain 
advantages." 

He decided to go out at once, in order to have a bit of fun. He 
went down the stairs, followed a departing guest through the 
revolving door, and in two minutes he was walking down Cork 
Street. It appeared to be just after midnight; there was a bobby, 
a taxi or two, and a few ladies, none of whom took any notice of 
him at all. 

He had not gone twenty yards, however, and was, as a matter 
of fact, just passing his tailor's, when a lean dark figure detached 
itself from the shadows which hung about the railings in front of 
the shop, and coming up close behind his elbow, said, "Damn and 
blast it, man, you have been a time!" 

Louis was a little put out at finding himself not so invisible as 
he had thought. Still, he glanced at the stranger and saw that his 
eyes were as luminous as a cat's eyes, from which it was plain that 
he could see better than most. 



[128] Half -Way to Hell 

"Do you mean," said Louis, "that I've been keeping you 
waiting?" 

"I've been hanging about here, freezing, for a week," said the 
stranger peevishly. 

Now it was only September, and the nights, though nippy, were 
not as cold as all that. Louis put two and two together. "Is it 
possible," said he, "that you have been waiting to — to take me in 
charge, so to speak, on account of my recent suicide?" 

"I have," said the fiend. "You'll come quietly, I suppose." 

"My dear fellow," said Louis, "I know you have your duty to 
do, and in any case I'm not the sort of person to make a scene in 
the street. I'm sorry if I've kept you hanging about in the cold, 
but the truth is I had no idea of your existence, so I hope there'll 
be no ill-feeling." 

"I've got an ill-feeling all right," replied the other, grumpily. "I 
swear I've got the 'flu, curse it!" And with that he sneezed miser- 
ably. "The worst of it is," he added, "we've got such a human of 
a way to go. I shall be fit for nothing for weeks." 

"Really, I can't bear to hear you sneeze like that," cried our 
hero. "Have you ever tried the Quetch at the Rat Trap Club?" 

"What's Quetch?" asked the other, between sneezes. 

"It tastes like liquid fire," replied Louis. "I believe it's made 
from plum stones, though why I can't tell you. Possibly to cure 
your cold." 

"Liquid fire, eh?" observed the stranger, his eyes glowing like 
cigarette ends. 

"Come and try it," said Louis. 

"I don't know," said the other. "We're a week late through your 
fault. I don't see why we shouldn't be half an hour later through 
mine. I suppose there'll be trouble if they hear of it." 

Louis assured him that this last half-hour must be put down to 
his account also. "You caught the cold through my delay," said 
he. "Therefore I am responsible for the time you take to cure it." 
The fiend obviously believed this, which caused our hero to reflect 
that he must be a very simple fiend. 

They set out for the Rat Trap Club. Passing through Piccadilly 
Circus, the fiend indicated the Underground, saying, "That's 
where I'm going to take you when we've had this drop of what- 
d'ye-call-it." 



Half -Way to Hell [129] 

"That does not take you to Hell," said Louis, "but only to 
Barons Court. The mistake is pardonable." 

"No mistake," replied the fiend. "Let's cross the road this way, 
and I'll show you what I mean." 

They went in, and travelled down the escalator, chatting very 
affably. It was fairly crowded with more ordinary passengers, but 
our friends attracted no attention whatever. There are a great 
many fiendish-looking individuals travelling on this subway, and 
others of a corpsy appearance. Besides, now I come to think of it, 
they were invisible. 

When they had reached the ordinary lowest level, where the 
trains run, "Come," said the fiend, and drew Louis into a passage 
he had never before noticed, up which there came a huger clank- 
ing and a sultrier blast. He saw a notice saying, "Follow the wrong 
light." A few paces brought them to the top of an escalator such 
as our hero had never dreamed of: it swooped down from under 
their feet with a roar and a groan, down into the close innards of 
the earth. Its passage was lit by the usual lamps. Louis, whose 
sight seemed to have become extremely keen, saw that at some 
far point on its vast curve, the black shades changed to blue, and 
the lamps gave place to stars. However, it seemed to go on the 
devil of a long way past that. 

For the rest, it was made just like all other escalators: its sides 
were adorned with pictorial advertisements of temptations, some 
of which Louis thought might be very interesting. He could have 
stepped on, for there was no barrier or ticket collector, but, as we 
have seen, he liked to take his time. 

Now and then, he and his companion were jostled by other 
fiends and their charges. I am afraid some of the latter were be- 
having in rather an undignified manner, and had to be marched 
along in a sort of policeman's grip. The effect was degrading. 
Louis was interested to see, however, how tremendously the esca- 
lator accelerated once it felt the weight of these infernal police- 
men and their victims. It was a tremendous spectacle to see this 
narrow moving chain, dimly lit, roaring, rushing down, looping 
the distance between Earth and Hell, which is greater than one 
would imagine. 

"What did you do before this sort of thing was invented?" 
asked Louis. 






[130] Half -Way to Hell 

"We had to leap down, like chamois, from star to star," replied 
the fiend. 

"Splendid!" said Louis. "Now let's go and have that drink." 

The fiend consenting, they went off to the Rat Trap, and, slip- 
ping into a cubby-hole behind the bar, they helped themselves 
to a full bottle of the famous Quetch. The fiend disdained a glass, 
and put the bottle to his lips, whereupon Louis saw, to his great 
amazement, this powerful form of brandy was actually brought 
to the boil. The fiend appeared to like it; when the liquid was 
gone he sucked away at the bottle, the melting sides of which 
collapsed like the skin of a gooseberry sucked at by a child. When 
he had drawn it all into his mouth, he smiled, pursed his lips, and 
blew out the glass again, this time more like a cigarette-smoker 
exhaling his first puff. What's more, he didn't blow the glass into 
bottle shape as formerly, but into the most delightful statuary 
piece, most realistic, most amusing. "Adam and Eve," said he 
laconically, placing it on the table to cool. 

"Oh, very, very good!" cried Louis. "Can you do Mars and 
Venus?" 

"Oh, yes," said the fiend. Louis immediately commandeered 
several more bottles of Quetch. 

He called for one or two other subjects, of a nature that would 
hardly interest the reader. The fiend, however, thought each more 
amusing than the last, and nearly split his sides over the effect 
of a hiccup on Lady Godiva. The fact is, he was getting rather 
tight. Louis encouraged him, not so much for the love of art as 
because he had no great desire to ride on that escalator. 

At last the fiend could drink no more. He got up, jingled his 
money (fiends have money — that's where it's all gone to) , puffed 
out his cheeks. "Whoop!" said he, with a hiccup. "My cold's 
better, I believe. If it isn't, well, then — to Hell with it! That's what 
I say. Ha! Ha!" 

Louis, you may be sure, told him he was a fine fellow. "Well," 
said he, as they stood on the steps of the Club, "I suppose you're 
going that way; I'm going this." He made a bit of a face, pleas- 
antly, raised his hat, and set off along the street, scarcely daring to 
breathe till he had rounded the corner. 

When he thought himself in safety, "By Jove," said he, "I'm 






Half-Way to Hell [131] 

well rid of that fellow. Here I am, dead, invisible, and the night is 
yet young. Shall I go and see what Celia's doing?" 

Before he could embark on this rash project, he felt a very hard 
hand on his arm, looked round, and saw his custodian. 

"Oh, there you are," said he. "I wondered where the devil you'd 
got to." 

"Drunk as a lord," said the fiend, with a smile. "Got to see each 
other home, eh?" 

There was nothing for it: they set out for Piccadilly Circus. 
The fiend kept his hand on Louis's wrist, quite inoffensively of 
course, only Louis would rather it had not been there. 

So they went chatting into the subway again. Just as they got 
to the level of the Piccadilly line, which is where the infernal 
aperture gapes for those who are privileged to see it, whom should 
Louis see, in top hat, white silk scarf, and all the rest, but his 
damned nasty rival, catching a late train home. 

"I bet," said Louis at once, addressing the fiend, "that you are 
not strong enough to carry me on your back from here to the 
escalator." 

The fiend, with a sneer of contempt, immediately bent down. 
Louis, with a desperate effort, picked hold of his rival round the 
waist and dumped him on the back of the fiend, who gripped his 
legs, and started off like a race-horse. 

"Carry you all the way to Hell for tuppence!" cried he, in 
drunken pride. 

"Done!" cried Louis, who was skipping along beside them to 
enjoy the spectacle. 

He had the delicious pleasure of seeing them jump on the esca- 
lator, whose terrific acceleration seemed even more marked and 
more admirable than before. 

Louis returned to the street as happy as a king. He walked 
about for a bit, and suddenly decided to look in at Mutton's Hotel 
to see how his corpse was getting on. 

He was rather annoyed to see, even as he stood looking at it, 
that the effective smile, over which he had taken so much trouble, 
was slipping. In fact, it was beginning to look altogether idiotic. 
Without giving the matter a thought, he instinctively nipped 
inside to hook it back into place. In doing so he twitched his nose, 



[132] Half -Way to Hell 

found it necessary to sneeze, opened his eyes, and, in a word, 
found himself quite alive and no longer kicking, in that excellent 
bedroom of Mutton's Hotel. 

"Well, upon my word!" said he, glancing at the bedside table. 
"Is it possible I dropped off to sleep after taking only two of 
those tablets? There is really something to be said for taking one's 
time. It must have been just a vivid dream." 

In short, he was glad to be alive, and still gladder a day or two 
afterwards, when some news came through that made it seem 
that it was not a dream after all. Louis's rival was announced 
as missing, having last been seen by two friends at the entrance 
of Piccadilly Circus station shortly after midnight on Tuesday. 

"Who'd have thought it?" said Louis. "Anyway, I suppose I 
had better go and see Celia." 

However, he had learned the advantage of taking his time, and 
before he went he thought better of it, and, in fact, did not go at 
all, but went to Paris for the autumn, which shows that girls 
shouldn't play fast and loose with the affections of small men with 
blue eyes, or they may find themselves left in the lurch. 



Vf?fff??ffffffff?ffffffffffffff?ffffffff?fYfffftffffffffttfftffffffffffff?fffffffffffffffffffffff?fffffffft?tffVff 



POSSESSION OF 
ANGELA BRADSHAW 



^POSSESSION OF ANGELA BRADSHAW^ 



THERE WAS A YOUNG WOMAN, THE DAUGHTER OF A RETIRED COLONEL, 

resident in one of London's most select suburbs, and engaged to be 
married to Mr. Angus Fairfax, a solicitor who made more money 
every year. The name of this young woman was Angela Bradshaw; 
she wore a green suede cardigan, and had an Aberdeen terrier, and 
when open-toed shoes were in fashion, she wore open-toed shoes. 
Angus Fairfax was as ordinary as herself, and pleasant and ordi- 
nary were all the circumstances of their days. 

Nevertheless, one day in September this young woman devel- 
oped symptoms of a most distressing malady. She put a match to 
the curtains of the drawing-room, and kicked, bit, and swore like 
a trooper when restrained. 

Everyone thought she had lost her reason, and no one was more 
distressed than her fiance. A celebrated alienist was called in; he 
found her in a collected frame of mind. He made a number of little 
tests, such as are usual in these examinations, and could find none 
of the usual symptoms of dementia. 

When he had done, however, she burst into a peal of coarse 
laughter, and, calling him a damned old fool, she reminded him of 
one or two points he had overlooked. Now these points were ex- 
tremely abstruse ones, and most unlikely to be known to a young 
girl who had never studied psychoanalysis, or life, or anything of 
that sort. 

The alienist was greatly shocked and surprised, but he was 
forced to admit that while such knowledge was most abnormal, 
and while the term she had applied to him was indicative of the 
extreme of folly, he did not feel that she could be certified on these 
grounds alone. 

"But cannot she be certified for setting fire to my curtains?" 
asked her mother. 

"Not unless I find symptoms of insanity," said the specialist. 
"You can, of course, charge her with arson." 

[134] 






Possession of Angela Bradshaw [135] 

"What? And have her go to prison?" cried her mother. "Think 
of the disgrace!" 

"I could undertake her defence, free of charge, and doubtless get 
her off with a caution," said Mr. Fairfax. 

"There would still be the newspapers," said the Colonel, shaking 
his head. "At the same time, it seems extraordinary that nothing 
can be done about it." Saying this, he gave the eminent alienist his 
check and a look. The alienist shrugged his shoulders'and departed. 

Angela immediately put her feet on the table (her legs were ex- 
tremely well turned) and recited a string of doggerel verses, cele- 
brating the occasion in great detail, and casting scorn on her par- 
ents and her fiance. These verses were very scurrilous, or I would 
reproduce them here. 

During the next few days, she played some other tricks, all of 
them troublesome and undignified; above all, she rhymed away 
like the principal boy in a panto. A whole string of doctors was 
called in: they all said her misbehavior was not due to insanity. 

Her parents then tried a few quacks, who, powerless to certify, 
were also impotent to cure. In the end they went to a seedy 
Madame who claimed to see into the soul. "The whole thing is per- 
fectly clear," said this unprepossessing old woman. "Your daugh- 
ter is possessed of a devil. Two guineas." 

They asked her to exorcise the intrusive fiend, but that was ten, 
so they said they would think the matter over, and took Angela 
home in a taxi. 

On the way, she said to them with a smile, "If you had had the 
decency to ask me, I could have told you that was the trouble, all 
along." 

When they had finished rating her for allowing them to go to so 
much expense unnecessarily, they asked her how she knew. 

"In the simplest way," she said. "I see him very frequently." 

"When?" cried the Colonel. 

"Where?" cried her mother. 

"What is he like?" cried her fiance. 

"He is young and not at all bad-looking," replied Angela, "and 
he talks most amusingly. He generally appears to me when I am 
alone. I am seldom alone but in my bedroom, and it is there that I 
see him, between eleven at night and seven in the morning." 

"What does he say?" cried her father, grasping his malacca. 



[1S6] Possession of Angela Bradshaw 

"Is he black?" cried her mother. 

"What does he — ? How do you know it is not a she-devil?" cried 
her fiance. 

"He expresses himself rather coarsely, but I believe sincerely," 
replied Angela. "I sometimes find the things he says quite beauti- 
ful. He is not black. He is not a she-devil." 

"But how does he appear?" asked her mother. 

"Frequently I find him beside me, when I have got into bed," 
said Angela, with the greatest composure in the world. 

"I have always asked you to let me order a wider bed for that 
room," observed her mother to the Colonel. 

"This fiend must be exorcised at once," said Angus Fairfax, "for 
there is no bed wide enough to sleep three, once we are married." 

"I'm not sure that he wants to be exorcised," said Angela. "In 
any case, I must ask him first." 

"Colonel Bradshaw," said Angus Fairfax, "I hope you realize 
my position. In face of these revelations, and of all that lies behind 
them, I cannot but withdraw from the engagement." 

"A good riddance, / say," observed the fiend, now speaking for 
the first time. 

"Be quiet, dear," said Angela. 

Mr. Fairfax rapped on the glass, stopped the taxi, and got out. 

"In face of what we have just heard," said he, "no action for 
breach of promise can possibly lie." 

"It is not the custom of the Bradshaws to bring actions for 
breach of promise," said the Colonel. "No more shall we sue you 
for your share of the taxi-fare." 

The fiend, while Mr. Fairfax hastily fumbled for his money, re- 
cited a valedictory quatrain, rhyming most obscenely upon his 
name. 

To resume our tale: they got home. The Colonel immediately 
telephoned for the old Madame to come, regardless of cost. 

"I'll have this fiend out before eleven tonight, anyway, Miss," 
said he to his daughter, who laughed. 

The old Madame turned up, bearing a great box of powders, 
herbs, bones, symbols, and heaven knows what else. She had the 
drawing-room darkened, and the wireless disconnected from its 
aerial, just in case, and, as an afterthought, had the Colonel go out 
with a sardine to tempt a cat in from the street." They often like to 
go into a cat," she said. "I don't know why." 






Possession of Angela Bradshaw [137] 

Then, Angela being seated in the middle of the room, and the 
ornamental paper being taken out of the fireplace, because fiends 
very frequently like to make an exit by way of the chimney, the 
old woman lit a joss-stick or two, and began to mumble away for 
dear life. 

When she had said all that was required, she set fire to a saucer- 
ful of Bengal Light. "Come forth, Asmodeus!" she cried. 

"Wrong," said the fiend, with a chuckle. 

"Bother I" cried the old woman in dismay, for the flare had 
shown the cat eating one of the bones she had brought. "That was 
a bone of St. Eulalia, which was worse than Keating's Powder to 
devils, and cost me twenty guineas,'' she said. "No devil will go 
into that cat now, and the bone must go into the bill, and the 
Colonel must go into the street to fetch a fresh cat." 

When everything was resettled, she began again, and, lighting 
a new saucerful, "Come forth, Beelzebub!" she demanded. 

"Wrong again," said the fiend, with a louder chuckle than be- 
fore. 

"They'll never guess, darling," said Angela. 

The old beldam went on, at a prodigious expense of the Bengal 
Light, which was of a special kind. She called on Belial, Belphegor, 
Mahound, Radamanth, Minos, all the fiends ever heard of, and all 
she brought forth was taunts and laughter. 

"Then who the devil are you?" cried the Colonel at last. 

"William Wakefield Wall," replied the fiend. 

"You might have asked that at the beginning," said Angela 
quietly. 

"And who, if you please, is William Wakefield Wall?" inquired 
her mother, with dignity. "At least, dear, he is not one of those 
foreign fiends," she added to the Colonel. 

"He is some charlatan," said the old woman. "I have never 
heard of him." 

"Very few Philistines have," rejoined the fiend, with great equa- 
nimity. "However, if there is, by any odd chance, anyone in this 
suburb who is familiar with the latest developments of modern 
poetry, I advise you to make your inquiries there." 

"Do you mean to say you're a poet?" cried the Colonel. 

"I am not a Poona jingler," replied the other, "if that is what 
you mean by the term. Nor do I describe in saccharine doggerel 
such scenes as are often reproduced on colored calendars. If, how- 



[1S8] Possession of Angela Bradshaw 

ever, by the word 'poetry* you imply a certain precision, intensity, 
and clarity of " 

"He is a poet, Father," said Angela, "and a very good one. He 
had a poem in a magazine printed in Paris. Didn't you, Will?" 

"If the rascal is a poet," cried the Colonel, "bring in a bottle of 
whisky. That'll get him out, if I know the breed." 

"A typical army idea!" replied the poet. "Perhaps the only one. 
No, Colonel, you need not bring whisky here, unless you need some 
yourself, and you may send away that old woman, at whom I do 
nothing but laugh. I shall come out on my own terms, or not at all." 

"And your terms are — ?" said the Colonel. 

"Permission to marry your daughter," said the poet. "And the 
settlement upon her of a sum commensurate with the honor which 
my profession will bestow upon the family." 

"And if I refuse?" cried the outraged father. 

"I am very comfortable where I am," replied William Wall. 
"Angela can eat enough for two, and we are both as happy as any- 
thing. Aren't we, Angela?" 

"Yes, dear," said Angela. "Oh, don't!" 

"We shall continue to have our bit of fun, of course," added the 
poet. 

"My dear," said the Colonel to his wife, "I think we had better 
sleep on this." 

"I think it must be settled before eleven, my dear," said Mrs 
Bradshaw. 

They could see no way out of it, so they had to come to an agree 
ment. The poet at once emerged, and proved to be quite a present 
able young man, though a little free in his mode of speech, and he 
was able to satisfy them that he came of an estimable family. 

He explained that he had first seen Angela in the foyer of a 
theatre, during the entr'acte, and, gazing into her eyes (for he was 
much attracted) , he had been amazed and delighted to find him- 
self enter into possession of her. He was forced to reply in the 
affirmative to a certain question of Mrs. Bradshaw's: however, 
young people have their own standards in these days. They were 
married at once, and, as he soon took to writing novels, the finan- 
cial side worked out very satisfactorily, and they spent all their 
winters on the Riviera. 






»tf? ? tmtm»tm?tmr?f!!! THE RIGHT SIDE mmmmmm 



A YOUNG MAN, WHO WAS LOOKING EXTREMELY PALE, WALKED TO 

the middle of Westminster Bridge and clambered onto the para- 
pet. A swarthy gentleman, some years his senior, in evening dress, 
with dark red carnation, Inverness cape, monocle, and short im- 
perial, appeared as if from nowhere, and had him by the ankle. 

"Let me go, damn you I" muttered the would-be suicide, with a 
tug and a kick. 

"Get down, and walk beside me," said the stranger, "or that 
policeman, who has already taken a step or two in our direction, 
will most certainly run you in. Let us pretend to be two friends, 
one of whom wished for a thrill, while the other was anxious that 
he should not tumble over." 

The young man, who was so eager to be in the Thames, had a 
great aversion to being in prison. Accordingly he fell into step with 
the stranger, and, smiling (for now they were just passing the 
bobby) , "Damn and blast you!" he said. "Why can't you mind 
your own silly business?" 

"But, my dear Philip Westwick," replied the other, "I regard 
you as very much my business." 

"Who may you be?" cried the young man impatiently. "I don't 
know you. How did you get hold of my name?" 

"It came into my mind," said his companion, "just half an hour 
ago, when first you formed your rash resolution." 

"I don't know how that can be," said Philip. "Nor do I care." 

"You lovers," said his companion, "are surprised by nothing, 
except first that your mistresses should fancy you, and next, that 
they should fancy someone else." 

"How do you know," cried our poor Philip, "that it was over 
that sort of thing?" 

"I know that, and much more, equally ridiculous," replied the 
other. "What would you say if I reminded you that no less than a 
month ago, when you considered yourself in heaven, and were, in 

1140] 



The Right Side [141] 



point of fact, in your Millicent's arms, you discerned something of 
the essence of ennui in the nape of her neck, and actually wished 
her transformed into the little brunette who serves in a tea-shop in 
Bond Street? And now you are on the brink of suicide because 
your Millicent has left you, though the little brunette is, for all you 
know, in Bond Street still. What do you say to that?" 

"You seem to be unaware," said Philip, "that what a man wishes 
when he is in his girl's arms, and what he wishes when someone else 
is probably there, are two very different things. Otherwise, I ad- 
mit your knowledge is devilish uncanny." 

"That is only natural," replied the other with a complacent 
smile, from which Philip immediately realized that he was in the 
company of none other than the Devil himself. 

"What are you up to?" he demanded, drawing back a little. 

The Devil, with a look of great benevolence, offered him a ciga- 
rette. 

"I suppose it's not doped?" inquired Philip, sniffing at it sus- 
piciously. 

"Oh, cornel" said the Devil with a sneer. "Do you think I need 
resort to such measures as that, to overcome you? I have reason 
on my side." 

"You have a reputation for reasoning to some effect," said 
Philip. "I have very little desire to be eternally damned." 

"What did you expect, then," said the Devil, "when you contem- 
plated suicide?" 

"I see nothing wrong in that," said our hero. 

"Nor does a puppy that destroys his master's slipper," retorted 
the Devil. "However, he is punished for it." 

"I can't believe it," said Philip obstinately. 

"Come with me, then," said the Devil, and took him to a Fun 
Fair in the neighborhood of the Tottenham Court Road. Here a 
number of the ugliest wretches on earth were amusing themselves 
with gambling games; others were peering into stereoscopes which 
showed scenes of Parisian night life. The rest of them were picking 
pockets, making overtures to certain female habituees of the 
place, swearing, and indulging in all manner of filthy conversation. 

The Devil looked on all these much as one who has been walking 
among the poppies and the wild cornflowers of the fields looks 
upon the cultivated plants in the garden about his back-door. The 



[142] The Right Side 



commissionaire touched his cap much as gardeners do; the Devil 
acknowledged the salute and, taking out a latch-key, led Philip to 
a little door in the wall which, being opened, discovered a lift. 

They got in, and descended for several minutes at an incredible 
speed. 

"My dear Devil," said Philip, puffing at his cigarette, which 
was, in fact, doped, and gave him the impression of being a man of 
affairs, "my dear Devil, if we go on at this rate, we shall soon be in 
Hell itself." 

Nothing could have been more true. The lift stopped, they got 
out: they were in a vast hall which resembled nothing so much as 
the foyer of some gargantuan theater or picture palace. There were 
two or three box offices, in front of which the prices of admission 
were displayed: Stalls — gluttony; Private Boxes — lechery; Dress 
Circle — vanity; Gallery — sloth; and so forth. There was also a bar, 
at which one or two uniformed fiends were chatting with the bar- 
maids, among whom our friend was astonished to see the little 
brunette from Bond Street. 

Now and then a door opened upon the vast auditorium, and it 
was apparent that the play or talkie in progress was a lively one. 

"There's a dance lounge through here," said the Devil, "to which 
I particularly wanted to take you." 

A door was opened for them: they found themselves in a reason- 
ably large apartment got up in the grotto style, with ferns and 
imitation rock-work, and a damp and chilly air. A band was play- 
ing a travesty of Scarlatti. Several people were dancing rather list- 
lessly. Philip observed that many of them were disgustingly fat. 

The Devil led him up to a slim and pale girl, murmured a few 
words, and Philip, seeing nothing else to do, bowed, offered her his 
arm, and they began to circle the room. 

She danced very languidly, and kept her heavy lids drooped low 
over her eyes. Philip uttered one or two trifling remarks. "Do you 
come here often?" he said. She smiled faintly, but did not reply. 

He was a little piqued at her remaining so listless (besides, he 
had smoked one of the Devil's cigarettes) . "How very cold your 
hand is!" he said, giving it a slight squeeze. It certainly was. He 
maneuvered this unresponsive partner into a corner, where he 
clutched her waist rather more tightly than was necessary for 
dancing. He felt a chilly moisture penetrate the sleeve of his jacket, 



The Right Side [14S] 



and a faint but unmistakable smell of river-mud become percep- 
tible. He looked at her closely, and observed something extremely 
pearly about her eyes. 

"I did not catch your name," said Philip. 

His partner scarcely moved her colorless lips. "Ophelia," she 
said. 

"Excuse me," said Philip. 

You may depend he lost no time in rejoining the Devil. 

"Now," said that worthy, "are you still unable to believe that 
those who drown themselves are eternally damned?" 

Philip was forced to admit the point. 

"You have no idea how bored that poor girl is," said the Devil 
compassionately. "And she has only been here a few hundred 
years. What is that, in comparison to Eternity?" 

"Very little. Very little, indeed," said Philip. 

"You see what sort of partners she gets," continued the arch- 
fiend. "During every dance they reveal to her, and she to them, 
some little unpleasantness of the sort that so disquieted you." 

"But why should they be in a dance lounge?" asked Philip. 

"Why not?" said the Devil with a shrug. "Have another ciga- 
rette." 

He then proposed that they should adjourn to his office, to talk 
matters over. 

"Now, my dear Westwick," said he, when they were comfort- 
ably ensconced in armchairs, "what shall our little arrangement 
be? I can, of course, annihilate all that has occurred. In that case 
you will find yourself back on the parapet, in the very act of 
jumping, just as you were when I caught you by the ankle. Shortly 
afterwards you will arrive in the little dance lounge you saw: 
whether fat or thin depends upon the caprice of the waters." 

"It is night," said Philip. "The river flows at four miles an hour. 
I should probably get out to sea unobserved. Yes, I should almost 
certainly be one of the fat ones. They appeared to me remarkably 
deficient in it or S.A., if those terms are familiar to you." 

"I have heard of them," said the Devil, with a smile. "Have a 
cigar." 

"No, thanks," said Philip. "What alternative do you suggest?" 

"Here is our standard contract," said the Devil. "Do have a 
cigar. You see- — unlimited wealth, fifty years, Helen of Troy — 



[144] The Right Side 



well, that's obsolete. Say Miss ," and he mentioned the name 

of a delightful film-star. 

"Of course," said Philip, "there's this little clause about posses- 
sion of my soul. Is that essential?" 

"Well, it's the usual thing," said the Devil. "Better let it stand. 
This is where you sign." 

"Well, I don't know," said Philip. "I don't think I'll sign." 

"What?" cried the Devil. 

Our hero pursed his lips. 

"I don't want to influence you, my dear Westwick," said the 
Devil, "but have you considered the difference between coming 
in tomorrow as a drowned suicide, and coming in — fifty glorious 
years hence, mind — as a member of the staff? Those were mem- 
bers of the staff you saw talking to the little brunette at the bar. 
Nice girl!" 

"All the same," said Philip, "I don't think I'll sign. Many 
thanks, though." 

"All right," said the Devil. "Back you go, then!" 

Philip was aware of a rushing sensation: he seemed to be shoot- 
ing upwards like a rocket. However, he kept his presence of mind, 
kept his weight on his heels, and, when he got to the parapet, 
jumped down, but on the right side. 



ANOTHER 

AMERICAN 

TRAGEDY 



J!^» ANOTHER AMERICAN TRAGEDY JRSB? 



A YOUNG MAN ENTERED THE OFFICE OF A PROMINENT DENTIST, AND 

seated himself in the chair. He scornfully waved aside the little 
probe and mirror with which the dentist smilingly approached 
him. "Rip 'em all out," he said. 

"But," said the dentist, "your teeth seem perfectly good." 

"So," said the young man, "is my money." 

The dentist hesitated a little. "It would hardly be ethical," said 
he, "to take out teeth which are sound — unless there is a very 
good reason for it." 

The young man, who had begun to smile at the word "ethical," 
here extended his smile into a cavernous gape, which laid bare the 
hindermost of his ivories. At the same time he twitched out a 
small roll of bills from his vest pocket, and held them noticeably 
in his hand. 

The dentist utterly ignored these bills. "If you want those excel- 
lent teeth out," said he, "you must certainly be mad. Now I have 
a little theory: mental derangement is caused by dental derange- 
ment. It is a sign of something wrong way up behind the roots of 
the teeth, especially those of the upper row. Viewed from that 
angle " 

"Cut it, and pull them, out," said the young man, impatient 
of these professional niceties. 

The dentist shrugged and obeyed. As if in fear that the young 
man might become altogether too sane at the end of the operation, 
he humorously tweaked away the roll of bills with a thirty-third 
frisk of his forceps. 

The young man made no comment, but only called for a mir- 
ror, in which he surveyed his numb and fallen chops with every 
appearance of satisfaction. He asked when his temporary denture 
would be ready, made the appointment, and went his way. 

"Dear me!" thought the dentist. "Perhaps the trouble was not 
in his teeth after all. Certainly he is still as crazy as a coot." 

[146] 



Another American Tragedy [147] 

Here the dentist made a big mistake. The young man was per- 
fectly sane, and knew very well what he was about. It happened 
that he had spent all his money, in some years of the vilest dissipa- 
tion, but he had a very far-reaching and water-tight plan for 
getting some more. 

He accordingly returned to the dentist on the appointed day, 
and was equipped with his temporary grinders, which he sucked 
at and gnashed in the most ordinary fashion. He paid for them 
with almost his last dollar, went out, and got into his racy-looking 
roadster, and drove out of town as if pursued by the finance com- 
pany, as he certainly would have been had they caught sight of 
him. 

He drove till nightfall, and resumed his journey next day. Late 
in the afternoon he arrived in that part of the country where old 
and miserly uncles live in remote, dilapidated farm-houses. Our 
young man was more or less fortunate in possessing one of the 
oldest and richest of these uncles, whose house was the remotest 
and most dilapidated of all. 

Arriving at this secluded dwelling, our hero drew up before a 
porch upon which no money had been squandered for years. "So 
much the more in the old sock," reflected the nephew, as he 
knocked upon the door. 

He was a little disconcerted to hear the tap of high heels within, 
instead of the shuffle of a deaf and surly retainer, and his jaw 
dropped when the door was opened by a plump and squarish 
blonde, a baby of some thirty years and about a hundred and fifty 
pounds. Her mouth was as wide and as red as a slice of water- 
melon, she had well-darkened lashes and brows, and an abundance 
of phony gold hair flowing girlishly down over her shoulders. Our 
friend was to some extent reassured when he realized that she was 
dressed in what might be called a nurse's uniform, but the fact 
that her garters were bright scarlet, and adorned with enormous 
bows, caused him to wonder if his dear uncle was getting the very 
best of professional care. 

Nevertheless it is important to get on the right side of the nurse, 
especially when she stands solidly in the doorway. Our hero re- 
moved his hat, and put on so soapy a smile that his false teeth 
nearly dropped out of his head. "I have driven all the way from 
the big city," said he, "to see my poor, dear, bed-ridden old uncle 



[148] Another American Tragedy 

—God bless him! I did not expect to see so charming a 
nurse." 

The nurse, not budging an inch, responded with a surly and 
suspicious stare. 

"I fear he must be sinking," continued the nephew. "In fact, I 
had an intuition, a sort of telepathic S.O.S., telling me to hasten 
out here before it was too late. Let me rush to his bedside." 

The nurse still hesitated, but at that moment a peculiar sound, 
resembling the croaking of giant bull-frogs, arose in the dim 
depths of the house. This was the good old uncle himself, vocifer- 
ating toothlessly for an immediate sight of his nephew, whose 
expressions of affection and concern had been audible in every 
corner of the dwelling. The old boy knew very well that his rela- 
tive was after money, and he was eager for the pleasure of turning 
him down. 

The nurse somewhat grudgingly stepped aside. Our hero, with 
a well-rehearsed whinny of delight, scuttled into the bedroom. 

Nothing is more affecting than the greetings of near relatives 
after a long separation, especially when they are as fond of each 
other as these two. "My dear Uncle!" cried the nephew. "What 
a pleasure it is to see you again! But why does your hand tremble 
so? Why are your eyes so sunken? Why are you so thin and pale?" 

"If it comes to that," said his uncle, "you are not too stout and 
rosy yourself. Yes, you are very worn and emaciated, my boy. 
Your hair is thin and grey; you have lines, bags, and creases all 
over your face. If it were not for your handsome white teeth, I 
believe you would look every bit as old as I do." 

"That," said the nephew, "is the effect of ceaseless toil and moil. 
It is a hard struggle, Uncle, to make good in these days, especially 
without any capital." 

"So you are making good?" said the old man. "Do you not drink 
any more?" 

"No, Uncle, I never drink now," replied the nephew. 

"Well, that's tough," said his uncle, producing a giant flask from 
under his pillow. "In that case I can't ask you to join me." With 
that, he took a mighty swig, and, wiping his lips, he continued, "I 
have, thank heaven, a good doctor. A typical tough, bluff, hard- 
hitting, straight-shooting country doc of the old school. We call 
him the horse 'n' buggy doc. He recommends me this as medicine." 



Another American Tragedy [149] 

"Perhaps that is why your hand trembles so," said his nephew. 

"You own is none too steady," rejoined his uncle. "Evidently 
you work too hard. Tell me, Nephew, do you ever take a little 
nutter with the cards?" 

"Good heavens, no!" cried the nephew. "I cured myself of that 
folly long ago." 

"I am sorry to hear it," replied his uncle. "We might have played 
a little cut-throat. The old horse 'n' buggy doc says the excitement 
keeps me lively. We often play together till after midnight." 

"That is why your eyes are sunken so deep," said the nephew. 

"I think yours are equally hollow," replied the old man. "You 
should take a little rest now and then. I suppose, my dear Nephew, 
you still have an occasional frolic with the girls." 

"Girls!" cried the nephew, lifting up his hands. "What an odious 
suggestion! It is years since I have even looked at a girl." 

"Well, that's too bad," said his uncle. "The old horse J n' buggy 
doc has up-to-date views. It was he who sent me Birdie." And, 
turning to the nurse, who happened to be arranging his pillows, he 
gave her a certain sort of caress such as is far better imagined than 
described. 

"No wonder!" cried his nephew, when the nurse had gone bri- 
dling and smirking from the room. "No wonder my poor Uncle, 
that you are so extremely thin and pale!" 

"You are equally so," replied his uncle, "and you are only half 
my age." 

"Well," said the nephew, trying a new tack, "perhaps your doc- 
tor is right. Perhaps I had better take your treatment." 

"I heartily advise it," said the old man. 

"The only thing," said the nephew, "is that I can hardly work 
at the same time. I suppose you would not care to give me a little 
money, so that I can enjoy the benefits of the system." 

"Well, no," said his uncle. "I would not. Definitely not." 

"I thought as much," said his nephew. "I fear I shall have to 
keep on toiling. How upset your good old horse V buggy doc 
would be! Tell me one thing, however; indulge my curiosity in one 
trifling respect. Is there any hope I shall come into your money? 
Have you arranged it in your will?" 

"Oh, come!" said his uncle. "Why bother your head with matters 
of that sort?" 



[150] Another American Tragedy 



"Do tell me," pressed the nephew. "You have no idea how in- 
terested I am." 

"Well, if you really want to know," said his uncle, "I have left 
it all to the old horse 'n' buggy doc, a true downright, straight- 
living, hard-faced, crusty, soft-hearted country saw-bones of the 
old school, and you cannot imagine how agreeable his treatment 
is to me." 

"Is that really so?" said the nephew. "I must say I expected 
something of the sort. Fortunately I have made my plans against 
just such a contingency. Allow me, my dear Uncle." 

With that he twitched a pillow from under the old man's head, 
and pressed it over his face. The old uncle gave a petulant kick or 
two, but what with one thing and another there was very little life 
left in him, and soon that little was gone. 

The nephew, with a wary glance at the door, quickly divested 
himself of his clothing, which he stowed under the bed. Next, pos- 
sibly feeling a little chilly, he took the liberty of borrowing his 
uncle's nightshirt. Then, stowing his uncle's shrunken body under 
the bed also, he climbed into his place between the sheets. Finally 
he expectorated his false teeth into a clean pocket handkerchief, 
which he had brought especially for the purpose, and leaned back 
upon the pillows, the very spit and image of the old man. 

Soon he set up a pipe: "Birdie! Birdie!" 

At his call the nurse came hurrying in. "Why, honey-boy," said 
she, "where's your worthless nephew gone?" 

4 'He has just slipped out for a stroll around the old place," 
croaked our hero. "Moreover, I don't think you should call him 
worthless. No, I have misjudged that young man, and I want you 
to send for the lawyer, so that I can do him justice in my will." 

"Why, Daddy?" cried the nurse. "What's made this change in 
you?" 

"Change?" said the nephew hastily. "There's no change in me, 
my dear, except perhaps I feel my latter end approaching. Other- 
wise I am just the same." And to reasure her on this point, he gave 
her a friendly little caress, exactly as his uncle had done. She 
emitted an hilarious squeal and went giggling on her errand. 

The nephew lay at his ease, waiting only for the arrival of the 
lawyer. "I shall dictate a new will," thought he, "and sign it before 
the very eyes of the lawyer, in a shaky imitation of the old man's 






Another American Tragedy [ 151 ] 

crabbed hand. I shall then express a desire to be left alone for a 
short nap, replace my poor uncle in the bed, put on my clothes, put 
back my teeth, and step out of the window, to march in at the 
front door as if newly returned from my walk. What bucketfuls of 
tears I shall shed, when we discover that the poor old boy has 
passed peacefully away!" 

Pretty soon there was a heavy footstep on the porch, and a 
large and rough-hewn individual strode into the room, bearing a 
sizable black bag. 

"I am glad you have come," said our hero. "I am eager to make 
out a new will. I wish to leave everything to my nephew." 

"My dear old friend," replied the newcomer, "I fear your malady 
has reached the brain. Who would have thought my old pal could 
have mistaken me for the lawyer? You must let me make a brief 
examination." With that, he pulled down the sheet, and began to 
probe the nephew with a hard and horny finger. The nephew real- 
ized too late that this was no lawyer, but the horse V buggy doc 
himself, and he uttered a hollow groan. 

"I feared as much," said the doctor. "There is something very 
wrong somewhere in here. I must act at once if you are to recover 
your reason." As he spoke, he turned the nephew over in the bed, 
and whisked out a monster hypodermic from his black bag. "For- 
tunately," said he, "I am always ready for emergencies." 

Our hero tried to protest, but he hardly knew what to say, fear- 
ing that his uncle would be discovered under the bed, and the 
circumstance would tend to his prejudice. The doctor, all in a 
moment, injected a pint of icy fluid into the small of his back, 
which numbed his whole middle, and paralysed all his faculties, 
except that of rolling the eyes, which he indulged to the point of 
excess. 

"I am only an old, rough, goldarn horse V buggy doc," observed 
the doctor, "but I keep abreast of the times. Mental derangement 
is often caused by abdominal derangement. If you will get out my 
instruments, nurse, I think we shall soon find the source of the 
trouble." 

In a moment the unfortunate nephew was laid open under his 
own eyes, which he never ceased to roll. The doctor, unpacking 
him like a Gladstone bag, kept up a running commentary. "Take 
this," said he to the nurse, "and put it on the wash-stand. Put 



[152] Another American Tragedy 

these on the chair. Don't get them mixed up, or I shall have the 
devil of a job getting them back again. It is a pity that nephew is 
not back: it is more ethical to have the consent of a relative before 
operating. I see nothing wrong with this pancreas, considering the 
age of the patient. Put it on the chest of drawers. Hang these over 
the bed-rail. 

"Hold the candle a little closer," he continued. "I still have not 
found the cause of his madness. Don't let the candle drip; that is 
hardly hygienic. Anyway, he is certainly mad, or he would not 
think of leaving his money to that scallawag of a nephew. It is as 
well you let me know, my dear, instead of bothering the lawyer. 
When this is all over, we must take a little trip together." 

Saying this, he gave the nurse a caress, similar to that which 
both uncle and nephew had bestowed on her. The sight of this 
caress not only shocked our hero, but depressed him abominably, 
and lowered his powers of resistance. "It is most unprofessional," 
thought he, "and, what's even worse, it smacks hatefully of con- 
spiracy." This thought caused him to roll his eyes for the last time, 
and next moment he was a goner. 

"Dear me," said the doctor, "I fear I have lost my patient. Some- 
times I quite envy the city doctor, with his well-appointed oper- 
ating theater. However, their biographies usually sell very poorly, 
and, after all, I did my best for the old boy, and he has remem- 
bered me in his will. Had he lived, he might have altered it. What 
an extraordinary trick of fate! Pass me over the various organs, 
my dear, and I will put them roughly into position, for I expect 
the nephew will be back very shortly, and he would hate to see 
them lying around." 



^mff^ffff^ff^fffJ^ft^ff7?f^ bird qp prey r^^r^Sr^i 



THE HOUSE THEY CALL THE ENGINEER S HOUSE IS NOW DESERTED. THE 

new man from Baton Rouge gave it up after living less than 
a month in it, and built himself a two-room shack with his 
own money, on the very farthest corner of the company's 
land. 

The roof has caved in, and most of the windows are smashed. 
Oddly enough, no birds nest in the shelter of the eaves, or take ad- 
vantage of the forsaken rooms. An empty house is normally fine 
harborage for rats and mice and bats, but there is no squeak, or 
rustle, or scamper to disturb the quiet of this one. Only creatures 
utterly foreign, utterly remote from the most distant cousinhood 
to man, only the termite, the tarantula, and the scorpion indiffer- 
ently make it their home. 

All in a few years Edna Spalding's garden has been wiped out as 
if it had never existed. The porch where she and Jack sat so hap- 
pily in the evenings is rotten under its load of wind-blown twigs 
and sand. A young tree has already burst up the boards outside 
the living-room window, so that they fan out like the stiff fingers 
of someone who is afraid. In this corner there still stands a 
strongly made parrot's perch, the wood of which has been left 
untouched even by the termite and the boring beetle. 

The Spaldings brought a parrot with them when first they came. 
It was a sort of extra wedding present, given them at the last 
moment by Edna's mother. It was something from home for Edna 
to take into the wilds. 

The parrot was already old, and he was called Tom, and, like 
other parrots, he sat on his perch, and whistled and laughed and 
uttered his few remarks, which were often very appropriate. Edna 
and Jack were both very fond of him, and they were overwhelm- 
ingly fond of each other. They liked their house, and the country, 
and Jack's colleagues, and everything in life seemed to be delight- 
ful. 

[154] 






Bird of Prey [155] 



One night they had just fallen asleep when they were awakened 
by a tremendous squawking and fluttering outside on the porch. 
"Oh, Jack!" cried Edna. "Get up! Hurry! Run! It's one of those 
cats from the men's camp has got hold of poor Tom!" 

Jack sprang out of bed, but caught his foot in the sheet, and 
landed on his elbow on the floor. Between rubbing his elbow and 
disentangling his foot, he wasted a good many seconds before he 
was up again and had dashed through the living-room and out 
upon the porch. 

All this time, which seemed an age, the squawking and flutter- 
ing increased, but as he flung open the door it ceased as suddenly 
as it had begun. The whole porch was bathed in the brightest 
moonlight, and at the farther end the perch was clearly visible, and 
on the floor beneath it was poor old Tom parrot, gasping amid a 
litter of his own feathers, and crying, "Oh! Oh! Oh!" 

At any rate he was alive. Jack looked right and left for traces 
of his assailant, and at once noticed the long, heavy trailers of the 
vine were swinging violently, although there was not a breath of 
wind. He went to the rail and looked out and around, but there 
was no sign of a cat. Of course, it was not likely there would be. 
Jack was more interested in the fact that the swaying vines were 
spread over a length of several feet, which seemed a very great 
deal of disturbance for a fleeing cat to make. Finally he looked 
up, and he thought he saw a bird — a big bird, an enormous bird — 
flying away: he just caught a glimpse of it as it crossed the bright- 
ness of the moon. 

He turned back, and picked up old Tom. The poor parrot's chaio 
was broken, and his heart was pounding away like mad, and still, 
like a creature hurt and shocked beyond all endurance, he cried, 
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" 

This was all the more odd, for it was seldom the old fellow came 
out with a new phrase, and Jack would have laughed heartily, ex- 
cept it sounded too pathetic. So he carefully examined the poor 
bird, and finding no injury beyond the loss of a handful of feathers 
from his neck, he replaced him on the perch, and turned to reas- 
sure Edna, who now appeared in the doorway. 

"Is he dead?" cried she. 

"No," said Jack. "He's had a bit of shock, though. Something 
got hold of him." 



[156] Bird of Prey 



"I'll bring him a piece of sugar," said Edna. "That's what he 
loves. That'll make him feel better." 

She soon brought the sugar, which Tom took in his claw, but 
though usually he would nibble it up with the greatest avidity, 
this time he turned his lack-lustre eye only once upon it, and gave 
a short, bitter, despairing sort of laugh, and let it fall to the ground. 

"Let him rest," said Jack. "He has had a bad tousling." 

"It was a cat," said Edna. "It was one of those beastly blacks 
that the men have at the camp." 

"Maybe," said Jr.ck. "On the other hand — I don't know. I 
thought I saw an enormous bird flying away." 

"It couldn't be an eagle," said Edna. "There are none ever seen 
here." 

"I know," said Jack. "Besides, they don't fly at night. Nor do 
the buzzards. It might have been an owl, I suppose. But " 

"But what?" said Edna. 

"But it looked very much larger than an owl," said Jack. 

"It was your fancy," said Edna. "It was one of those beastly 
cats that did it." 

This point was discussed very frequently during the next few 
days. Everybody was consulted, and everybody had an opinion. 
Jack might have been a little doubtful at first, for he had caught 
only the briefest glimpse as the creature crossed the moon, but 
opposition made him more certain, and the discussions sometimes 
got rather heated. 

"Charlie says it was all your imagination," said Edna. "He says 
no owl would ever attack a parrot." 

"How the devil does he know?" said Jack. "Besides, I said it was 
bigger than an owl." 

"He says that shows you imagine things," said Edna. 

"Perhaps he would like me to think I do," said Jack. "Perhaps 
you both would." 

"Oh, Jack!" cried Edna. She was deeply hurt, and not without 
reason, for it showed that Jack was still thinking of a ridiculous 
mistake he had made, a real mistake, of the sort that young hus- 
bands sometimes do make, when they come suddenly into a room 
and people are startled without any real reason for it. Charlie was 
young and free and easy and good-looking, and he would put his 



Bird of Prey [157] 



hand on your shoulder without even thinking about it, and no- 
body minded. 

"I should not have said that," said Jack. 

"No, indeed you shouldn't," said Edna, and she was right. 

The parrot said nothing at all. All these days he had been mop- 
ing and ailing, and seemed to have forgotten even how to ask for 
sugar. He only groaned and moaned to himself, ruffled up his 
feathers, and every now and then shook his head in the most rue- 
ful, miserable, despairing way you can possibly imagine. 

One day, however, when Jack came home from work, Edna 
put her finger to her lips and beckoned him to the window. "Watch 
Tom," she whispered. 

Jack peered out. There was the old bird, lugubriously climbing 
down from his perch and picking some dead stalks from the vine, 
which he carried up till he gained a corner where the balustrade 
ran into the wall, and added his gatherings to others that were 
already there. He trod round and round, twisted his stalks in and 
out, and, always with the same doleful expression, paid great at- 
tention to the nice disposal of a feather or two, a piece of wool, a 
fragment of cellophane. There was no doubt about it. 

"There's no doubt about it," said Jack. 

"He's making a nest!" cried Edna. 

"He!" cried Jack. "He! I like that. The old impostor! The old 
male impersonator! She's going to lay an egg. Thomasina — that's 
her name from now on." 

Thomasina it was. Two or three days later the matter was set- 
tled beyond the shadow of a doubt. There, one morning, in the 
ramshackle nest, was an egg. 

"I thought she was sick because of that shaking she got," said 
Jack. "She was broody, that's all." 

"It's a monstrous egg," said Edna. "Poor birdie!" 

"What do you expect, after God knows how many years?" said 
Jack, laughing. "Some birds lay eggs nearly as big as themselves 
— the kiwi or something. Still, I must admit it's a whopper." 

"She doesn't look well," said Edna. 

Indeed, the old parrot looked almost as sick as a parrot can be, 
which is several times sicker than any other living creature. Her 
eyes closed up, her head sank, and if a finger was put out to scratch 



[158] Bird of Prey 



her she turned her beak miserably away. However, she sat con- 
scientiously on the prodigious egg she had laid, though every day 
she seemed a little feebler than before. 

"Perhaps we ought to'take the egg away," said Jack. "We could 
get it blown, and keep it as a memento." 

"No," said Edna. "Let her have it. It's all she's had in all these 
years." 

Here Edna made a mistake, and she realized it a few mornings 
later. "Jack," she called. "Do come. It's Tom — Thomasina, I 
mean. I'm afraid she's going to die." 

"We ought to have taken the egg away," said Jack, coming out 
with his mouth full of breakfast food. "She's exhausted herself. It's 
no good, anyway. It's bound to be sterile." 

"Look at her!" cried Edna. 

"She's done for," said Jack, and at that moment the poor old 
bird keeled over and gasped her last. 

"The egg killed her," said Jack, picking it up. "I said it would. 
Do you want to keep it? Oh, good Lord!" He put the egg down 
very quickly. "It's alive," he said. 

"What?" said Edna. "What do you mean?" 

"It gave me a turn," said Jack. "It's most extraordinary. It's 
against nature. There's a chick inside that egg, tapping." 

"Let it out," said Edna. "Break the shell." 

"I was right," said Jack. "It was a bird I saw. It must have been 
a stray parrot. Only it looked so big." 

"I'm going to break the shell with a spoon," said Edna, running 
to fetch one. 

"It'll be a lucky bird," said Jack when she returned. "Born 
with a silver spoon in its beak, so to speak. Be careful." 

"I will," said .Edna. "Oh, I do hope it lives." 

With that she gingerly cracked the shell, the tapping increased, 
and soon they saw a well-developed beak tearing its way through. 
In another moment the chick was born. 

"Golly!" cried Jack. "What a monster!" 

"It's because it's young," said Edna. "It'll grow lovely. Like its 
mother." 

"Maybe," said Jack. "I must be off. Put it in the nest. Feed it 
pap. Keep it warm. Don't monkey with it too much. Good-bye, 
my love." 



Bird of Prey [159] 



That morning Jack telephoned home two or three times to find 
out how the chick was, and if it ate. He rushed home at lunch time. 
In the evening everyone came round to peep at the nestling and 
offer advice. 

Charlie was there. "It ought to be fed every hour at least," said 
he. "That's how it is in nature." 

"He's right," said Jack. "For the first month at least, that's how 
it should be." 

"It looks as if I'm going to be tied down a bit," said Edna rue- 
fully. 

"I'll look in when I pass and relieve your solitude," said Charlie. 

"I'll manage to rush home now and then in the afternoons," said 
Jack, a little too thoughtfully. 

Certainly the hourly feeding seemed to agree with the chick, 
which grew at an almost alarming speed. It became covered 
with down, feathers sprouted: in a few months it was fully grown, 
and not in the least like its mother. For one thing, it was coal- 
black. 

"It must be a hybrid," said Jack. "There is a black parrot; I've 
seen them in zoos. They didn't look much like this, though. I've 
half a mind to send a photograph of him somewhere." 

"He looks so wicked," said Edna. 

"He looks cunning," said Jack. "That bird knows everything, 
believe me. I bet he'll talk soon." 

"It gave a sort of laugh," said Edna. "I forgot to tell you." 

"When?" cried Jack. "A laugh?" 

"Sort of," said Edna. "But it was horrible. It made Charlie 
nearly jump out of his skin." 

"Charlie?" cried Jack. "You didn't say he'd been here." 

"Well, you know how often he drops in," said Edna. 

"Do I?" said Jack. "I hope I do. God! What was that?" 

"That's what I meant," said Edna, "A sort of laugh." 

"What a horrible sound!" said Jack. 

"Listen, Jack," said Edna. "I wish you wouldn't be silly about 
Charlie. You are, you know." 

Jack looked at her. "I know I am," said he. "I know it when I 
look at you. And then I think I never will be again. But somehow 
it's got stuck in my mind, and the least little thing brings it on. 
Maybe I'm just a bit crazy, on that one subject." 



[160] Bird of Prey 



"Well, he'll be transferred soon," said Edna. "And that'll be the 
end of it." 

"Where did you hear that?" said Jack. 

"He told me this afternoon," said Edna. "He was on his way 
Lack from getting the mail when he dropped in. That's why he 
told me first. Otherwise he'd have told you first. Only he hasn't 
seen you yet. Do you see?" 

"Yes, I see," said Jack. "I wish I could be psychoanalysed or 
something." 

Soon Charlie made his farewells, and departed for his job on the 
company's other project. Edna was secretly glad to see him go: 
she wanted no problems, however groundless, to exist between 
herself and Jack. A few days later she felt sure that all the prob- 
lems were solved for ever. 

"Jack," said she when he came home in the evening. 

"Yes," said he. 

"Something new," said she. "Don't play with that bird. Listen 
to me." 

"Call him Polly," said Jack. They had named it Polly to be on 
the safe side. "You don't want to call him 'that bird.' The missus 
doesn't love you, Poll." 

"Do you know, I don't!" said Edna, with quite startling vehe- 
mence. "I don't like him at all, Jack. Let's give him away." 

"What? For heaven's sake!" cried Jack. "This rare, black, spe- 
cially hatched Poll? This parrot of romantic origin?" The clev- 
erest Poll that ever " 

"That's it," said Edna. "He's too darned clever. Jack, I hate 
him. He's horrible." 

"What? Has he said something you don't like?" said Jack, 
laughing. "I bet he will, when he talks. But what's the news, any- 
way?" 

"Come inside," said Edna. "I'm not going to tell you with that 
creature listening." She led the way into the bedroom. "The news 
is," said she, "that I've got to be humored. And if I don't like any- 
thing, it's got to be given away. It's not going to be born with a 
beak because its mother was frightened by a hateful monstrosity 
of a parrot." 

"What?" said Jack. 



Bird of Prey [161] 



"That's what," said Edna, smiling and nodding. 

"A brat?" cried Jack in delight. "A boy! Or a girl! It's bound to 
be one or the other. Listen: I was afraid to tell you how much I 
wanted one, Edna. Oh, boy! This is going to make everything very, 
very fine. Lie down. You're delicate. Put your feet up. I'm going 
to fix dinner. This is practice. Stay still. Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh, 
boy!" 

He went out through the living-room on his way to the kitchen. 
As he passed the window he caught sight of the parrot on the dark 
porch outside, and he put his head through to speak to it. 

"Have you heard the news?" said he. "Behold a father! You're 
going to be cut right out, my bird. You're going to be given away. 
Yes, sir, it's a baby." 

The parrot gave a long low whistle. "You don't say so?" said he 
in a husky voice, a voice of apprehension, a quite astonishing imi- 
tation of Charlie's voice. "What about Jack?" 

"What's that?" said Jack, startled. 

"He'll think it's his," whispered the parrot in Edna's voice. "He's 
fool enough for anything. Kiss me, darling. Phew-w-w! You don't 
say so? What about Jack? He'll think it's his, he's fool enough for 
anything. Kiss me, darling. Phew-w-w!" 

Jack went out into the kitchen, and sat down with his head in 
his hands for several minutes. 

"Hurry up!" cried Edna from the bedroom. "Hurry up — 
Father!" 

"I'm coming," said Jack. 

He went to his desk, and took out the revolver. Then he went 
into the bedroom. 

The parrot laughed. Then, lifting its claw, it took the chain in 
its beak, and bit through it as if it were paper. 

Jack came out, holding the gun, his hand over his eyes. "Fool 
enough for anything!" said the parrot, and laughed. 

Jack turned the gun on himself. As he did so, in the infinitesimal 
interval between the beginning and the end of the movement of 
his finger on the trigger, he saw the bird grow, spread its dark 
wings, and its eyes flamed, and it changed, and it launched itself 
towards him. 

The gun went off. Jack dropped to the floor. The parrot, or 



[162] Bird of Prey 

whatever it was, sailing down, seized what came out of his ruined 
mouth, and wheeled back through the window, and was soon far 
away, visible for a moment only as it swept on broader wings past 
the new-risen moon. 






JJ!{ffJJff»fffffWffftfft!ffff»»fff»ffff»Wft»tffff?fffffffftfftff!ffft?ftfff»fffffftfftfffftfff?fff»ffffff?ffffft» 



THUS I 

REFUTE 
BEELZY 



'«!» THUS I REFUTE BEELZY T&H&H& 



THERE GOES THE TEA BELL, SAID MRS. CARTER. I HOPE SIMON 

hears it." 

They looked out from the window of the drawing-room. The 
long garden, agreeably neglected, ended in a waste plot. Here a 
little summer-house was passing close by beauty on its way to 
complete decay. This was Simon's retreat: it was almost com- 
pletely screened by the tangled branches of the apple tree and 
the pear tree, planted too close together, as they always are in 
suburban gardens. They caught a glimpse of him now and then, 
as he strutted up and down, mouthing and gesticulating, per- 
forming all the solemn mumbo-jumbo of small boys who spend 
long afternoons at the forgotten ends of long gardens. 

"There he is, bless him," said Betty. 

"Playing his game," said Mrs. Carter. "He won't play with 
the other children any more. And if I go down there — the tem- 
per! And comes in tired out." 

"He doesn't have his sleep in the afternoons?" asked Betty. 

"You know what Big Simon's ideas are," said Mrs. Carter. 
" 'Let him choose for himself,' he says. That's what he chooses, 
and he comes in as white as a sheet." 

"Look. He's heard the bell," said Betty. The expression was 
justified, though the bell had ceased ringing a full minute ago. 
Small Simon stopped in his parade exactly as if its tinny dingle 
had at that moment reached his ear. They watched him perform 
certain ritual sweeps and scratchings with his little stick, and 
come lagging over the hot and flaggy grass towards the house. 

Mrs. Carter led the way down to the play-room, or garden- 
room, which was also the tea-room for hot days. It had been the 
huge scullery of this tall Georgian house. Now the walls were 
cream-washed, there was coarse blue net in the windows, canvas- 
covered armchairs on the stone floor, and a reproduction of Van 
Gogh's Sunflowers over the mantelpiece. 

Small Simon came drifting, and accorded Betty a perfunctory 

[164] 



Thus I Refute Beelzy [165] 

greeting. His face was an almost perfect triangle, pointed at the 
chin, and he was paler than he should have been. "The little 
elf-child!" cried Betty. 

Simon looked at her. "No," said he. 

At that moment the door opened, and Mr. Carter came in, 
rubbing his hands. He was a dentist, and washed them before 
and after everything he did. "You!" said his wife. "Home al- 
ready!" 

"Not unwelcome, I hope," said Mr. Carter, nodding to Betty. 
"Two people cancelled their appointments: I decided to come 
home. I said, I hope I am not unwelcome." 

"Silly!" said his wife. "Of course not." 

"Small Simon seems doubtful," continued Mr. Carter. "Small 
Simon, are you sorry to see me at tea with you?" 

"No, Daddy." 

"No, what?" 

"No, Big Simon." 

"That's right. Big Simon and Small Simon. That sounds more 
like friends, doesn't it? At one time little boys had to call their 
father 'sir.' If they forgot — a good spanking. On the bottom, 
Small Simon! On the bottom!" said Mr. Carter, washing his 
hands once more with his invisible soap and water. 

The little boy turned crimson with shame or rage. 

"But now, you see," said Betty, to help, "you can call your 
father whatever you like." 

"And what," asked Mr. Carter, "has Small Simon been doing 
this afternoon? While Big Simon has been at work." 

"Nothing," muttered his son. 

"Then you have been bored," said Mr. Carter. "Learn from 
experience, Small Simon. Tomorrow, do something amusing, and 
you will not be bored. I want him to learn from experience, 
Betty. That is my way, the new way." 

"I have learned," said the boy, speaking like an old, tired man, 
as little boys so often do. 

"It would hardly seem so," said Mr. Carter, "if you sit on 
your behind all the afternoon, doing nothing. Had my father 
caught me doing nothing, I should not have sat very comfort- 
ably." 

"He played," said Mrs. Carter. 

"A bit," said the boy, shifting on his chair. 



[166] Thus I Refute Beelzy 

"Too much," said Mrs. Carter. "He comes in all nervy and 
dazed. He ought to have his rest." 

"He is six," said her husband. "He is a reasonable being. He 
must choose for himself. But what game is this, Small Simon, 
that is worth getting nervy and dazed over? There are very few 
games as good as all that." 

"It's nothing," said the boy. 

"Oh, come," said his father. "We are friends, are we not? You 
can tell me. I was a Small Simon once, just like you, and played 
the same games you play. Of course there were no aeroplanes in 
those days. With whom do you play this fine game? Come on, 
we must all answer civil questions, or the world would never go 
round. With whom do you play?" 

"Mr. Beelzy," said the boy, unable to resist. 

"Mr. Beelzy?" said his father, raising his eyebrows inquiringly 
at his wife. 

"It's a game he makes up," said she. 

"Not makes up!" cried the boy. "Fool!" 

"That is telling stories, said his mother. "And rude as well. 
We had better talk of something different." 

"No wonder he is rude," said Mr. Carter, "if you say he tells 
lies, and then insist on changing the subject. He tells you his 
fantasy: you implant a guilt feeling. What can you expect? A 
defence mechanism. Then you get a real lie." 

"Like in These Three,' 9 said Betty. "Only different, of course. 
She was an unblushing little liar." 

"I would have made her blush," said Mr. Carter, "in the proper 
part of her anatomy. But Small Simon is in the fantasy stage. 
Are you not, Small Simon? You just make things up." 

"No, I don't," said the boy. 

"You do," said his father. "And because you do, it is not too 
late to reason with you. There is no harm in a fantasy, old chap. 
There is no harm in a bit of make-believe. Only you have to 
know the difference between day dreams and real things, or 
your brain will never grow. It will never be the brain of a Big 
Simon. So come on. Let us hear about this Mr. Beelzy of yours. 
Come on. What is he like?" 

"He isn't like anything," said the boy. 

"Like nothing on earth?" said his father. "That's a terrible 
fellow." 



Thus I Refute Beelzy [167] 

"I'm not frightened of him," said the child, smiling. "Not a 
bit." 

"I should hope not," said his father. "If you were, you would 
be frightening yourself. I am always telling people, older people 
than you are, that they are just frightening themselves. Is he a 
funny man? Is he a giant?" 

"Sometimes he is," said the little boy. 

"Sometimes one thing, sometimes another," said his father. 
"Sounds pretty vague. Why can't you tell us just what he's like?" 

"I love him," said the small boy. "He loves me." 

"That's a big word," said Mr. Carter. "That might be better 
kept for real things, like Big Simon and Small Simon." 

"He is real," said the boy, passionately. "He's not a fool. He's 
real." 

"Listen," said his father. "When you go down the garden 
there's nobody there. Is there?" 

"No," said the boy. 

"Then you think of him, inside your head, and he comes." 

"No," said Small Simon. "I have to do something with my 
stick." 

"That doesn't matter." 

"Yes, it does." 

"Small Simon, you are being obstinate," said Mr. Carter. "I 
am trying to explain something to you. I have been longer in 
the world than you have, so naturally I am older and wiser. I 
am explaining that Mr. Beelzy is a fantasy of yours. Do you 
hear? Do you understand?" 

"Yes, Daddy." 

"He is a game. He is a let's-pretend." 

The little boy looked down at his plate, smiling resignedly. 

"I hope you are listening to me," said his father. "All you have 
to do is to say, T have been playing a game of let's-pretend. 
With someone I make up, called Mr. Beelzy.' Then no one will 
say you tell lies, and you will know the difference between 
dreams and reality. Mr. Beelzy is a day dream." 

The little boy still stared at his plate. 

"He is sometimes there and sometimes not there," pursued 
Mr. Carter. "Sometimes he's like one thing, sometimes another. 
You can't really see him. Not as you see me. I am real. You 
can't touch him. You can touch me. I can touch you." Mr. Car- 



[168] Thus I Refute Beelzy 

ter stretched out his big, white, dentist's hand, and took his 
little son by the shoulder. He stopped speaking for a moment 
and tightened his hand. The little boy sank his head still lower. 

"Now you know the difference," said Mr. Carter, "between a 
pretend and a real thing. You and I are one thing; he is another. 
Which is the pretend? Come on. Answer me. What is the pre- 
tend?" 

"Big Simon and Small Simon," said the little boy. 

"Don't!" cried Betty, and at once put her hand over her 
mouth, for why should a visitor cry "Don't!" when a father is 
explaining things in a scientific and modern way? 

"Well, my boy," said Mr. Carter, "I have said you must be 
allowed to learn from experience. Go upstairs. Right up to your 
room. You shall learn whether it is better to reason, or to be 
perverse and obstinate. Go up. I shall follow you." 

"You are not going to beat the child?" cried Mrs. Carter. 

"No," said the little boy. "Mr. Beelzy won't let him." 

"Go on up with you!" shouted his father. 

Small Simon stopped at the door. "He said he wouldn't let 
anyone hurt me," he whimpered. "He said he'd come like a lion, 
with wings on, and eat them up." 

"You'll learn how real he is!" shouted his father after him. 
"If you can't learn it at one end, you shall learn it at the other. 
I'll have your breeches down. I shall finish my cup of tea first, 
however," said he to the two women. 

Neither of them spoke. Mr. Carter finished his tea, and un- 
hurriedly left the room, washing his hands with his invisible 
soap and water. 

Mrs. Carter said nothing. Betty could think of nothing to say. 
She wanted to be talking: she was afraid of what they might hear. 

Suddenly it came. It seemed to tear the air apart. "Good 
God!" she cried. "What was that? He's hurt him." She sprang 
out of her chair, her silly eyes flashing behind her glasses. "I'm 
going up there!" she cried, trembling. 

"Yes, let us go up," said Mrs. Carter. "Let us go up. That 
was not Small Simon." 

It was on the second-floor landing that they found the shoe, 
with the man's foot still in it, like that last morsel of a mouse 
which sometimes falls from the jaws of a hasty cat. 



15= 



NIGHT! YOUTH! 
PARIS! AND 
THE MOON! 



NIGHT! YOUTH! PARIS! AND THE MOON! 



ANNOYED WITH THE WORLD, I TOOK A LARGE STUDIO IN HAMP- 

stead. Here I resolved to live in utter aloofness, until the world 
should approach me on its knees, whining its apologies. 

The studio was large and high: so was the rent. Fortunately 
my suit was strongly made, and I had a tireless appetite for 
herrings. I lived here happily and frugally, pleased with the vast 
and shadowy room, and with the absurd little musicians' gallery, 
on which, however, I set my gramophone a-playing. I approved 
also of the little kitchen, the bathroom, the tiny garden, and 
even the damp path, sad with evergreens, that led to the street 
beyond. I saw no one. My mood was that of a small bomb, but 
one which had no immediate intention of going off. 

Although I had no immediate intention of going off, I was un- 
able to resist buying a large trunk, which I saw standing outside 
a junk-shop. I was attracted by its old-fashioned appearance, for 
I myself hoped to become old-fashioned: by its size, because I 
am rather small, by its curved lid, for I was always fond of curves, 
and most of all by a remark on the part of the dealer, who stood 
picking his nose in the disillusioned doorway of his shop. "A 
thing like that," said he, "is always useful." 

I paid four pounds, and had the large black incubus taken to 
my studio on a hand-barrow. There I stood it on the little gallery, 
which, for no reason, ran along the farther end. 

Now I had no money left; I felt it necessary to sublet my 
studio. This was a wrench. I telephoned the agents; soon they 
arranged to bring a client of theirs, one Stewart Musgrave, to 
inspect my harmless refuge. I agreed, with some reserve. "I pro- 
pose to absent myself during this inspection. You will find the 
key in the door. Later you can inform me if my studio is taken." 

Later they informed me that my studio was taken. "I will 
leave," I said, "at four o'clock on Friday. The interloper can 
come at four-thirty. He will find the key in the door." 

[170] 



Night I Youth! Paris! And the Moon! [171] 

Just before four on Friday, I found myself confronted with a 
problem. On letting one's studio, one locks one's clothes in a 
press reserved for the purpose. This I did, but was then nude. 
One has to pack one's trunk: I had nothing to put in it. I had 
bidden the world farewell: here was my studio — sublet — there 
was the world. For practical purposes there is very little else any- 
where. 

The hour struck. I cut the Gordian knot, crossed the Rubicon, 
burned my boats, opened my trunk, and climbed inside. At four- 
thirty the interloper arrived. With bated breath I looked out 
through my little air-and-peep-hole. This was a surprise. I had 
bargained for a young man of no personal attractions. Stewart 
Musgrave was a young woman of many. 

She had a good look around, pulled out every drawer, peeped 
into every corner. She bounced herself on the big divan-bed. She 
even came up onto the little useless gallery, leaned over, recited 
a line or two of Juliet, and then she approached my modest re- 
treat. "I won't open you," she said. "There might be a body in 
you." I thought this showed a fine instinct. Her complexion was 
divine. 

There is a great deal of interest in watching a lovely young 
girl, who imagines herself to be alone in a large studio. One never 
knows what she will do next. Often, when lying there alone, 
I had not known what I would do next. But then I was alone. 
She thought she was alone too, but I knew better. This gave me 
a sense of mastery, power. 

On the other hand, I soon loved her to distraction. The hell of 
it was, I had a shrewd suspicion she did not love me. How could 
she? 

At night, while she slept in an appealing attitude, I crept down- 
stairs, and into the kitchen, where I cleaned up the crockery, 
her shoes, and some chicken I found in the ice-box. "There is," 
she said to a friend, "a pixie in this studio." "Leave out some 
milk," said her friend. 

Everything went swimmingly. Nothing could have been more 
delicate than the unspoken love that grew up between the dis- 
illusioned world-weary poet and the beautiful young girl-artist, 
so fresh, so natural, and so utterly devoid of self-consciousness. 

On one occasion, I must admit, I tripped over the corner of a 



[172] Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon! 

rug. "Who is there?" she cried, waking suddenly from a dream of 
having her etchings lovingly appraised by a connoisseur. 

"A mouse," I telepathed squeakingly, standing very still. She 
sank into sleep again. 

She was more rudely put to sleep some days later. She came 
in, after being absent most of the evening, accompanied by a 
man to whom I took an immediate dislike. My instinct never 
fails me: he had not been in the studio half an hour before he 
gave her occasion to say, "Pray don't!" 

"Yes," said he. 

"No," said she. 

"I must," said he. 

"You mustn't," said she. 

"I will," said he. 

"You won't," said she. 

A vestige of refined feeling would have assured him that there 
was no possibility of happiness between people so at variance on 
every point. There should be at least some zone of enthusiastic 
agreement between every couple: for example, the milk. But 
whatever his feelings were, they were not refined. 

"Why did you bring me here?" said he with a sneer. 

"To see my etchings," she replied, biting her lip. 

"Well, then " 

"I thought you were a customer." 

"I am. A tough customer." With that he struck her on the 
temple. She fell, mute, inanimate, crumpled. 

"Damn it!" said he. "I've killed her. I've done her in. I shall 
swing. Unless — I escape." 

I was forced to admire the cold logic of it. It was, momentarily, 
the poet's unreasoning prostration before the man of action, the 
worldling. 

Quickly he undressed her. "Gosh!" he said. "What a pity I hit 
so hard!" He flung her over his shoulder, retaining her legs in his 
grasp. He bore her up the stairs, onto the shadowy balcony. He 
opened the trunk and thrust her inside. "Here is a fine thing!" I 
thought. "Here she is, in her condition, alone with me, in my 
condition. If she knew she was dead she'd be glad." The thought 
was bitter. 



Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon! [173] 

With the dawn he went for a taxi. The driver came in with 
him; together they bore the trunk to the vehicle waiting out- 
side. 

"Strewth, it's heavy!" said the driver. "What yer got in it?" 

"Books," said the murderer, with the utmost calm. 

If I had thought of saying, "Paradise Lost, in two volumes," 
I should have said it, then and there, and this story would have 
come to an end. As it was we were hoisted on to the cab, which 
drove off in the direction of Victoria. 

A jet of cool night air flowed through the air-hole. She, whom 
I had mourned as dead, inhaled it, and breathed a sigh. Soon she 
was fully conscious. 

"Who are you?" she asked in alarm. 

"My name," I said tactfully, "is Emily." 

She said, "You are kidding me." 

I said, "What is your name?" 

She said, "Stewart." 

I could not resist the reply, "Then I am Flora MacDonald." 

Thus by easy stages I approached the ticklish question of my 
hitherto hopeless love. 

She said, "I would rather die." 

I said, "In a sense you have died already. Besides, I am your 
pixie. Or it may be only a dream, and you could hardly blame 
yourself for that. Anyway, I expect he will take us to Paris." 

"It is true," she said, "that I have always dreamed of a honey- 
moon in Paris." 

"The Paris moon!" I said. "The bookstalls on the quais. The 
little restaurants on the Left Bank!" 

"The Cirque Medrano!" she cried. 

"L'Opera!" 

"Le Louvre! Le Petit Palais!" 

"Le Boeuf sur le Toit!" 

"Darling," she cried, "if it were not so dark, I would show you 
my etchings, if I had them with me." 

We were in absolute raptures; we heard the ticket being taken 
for Paris. We were registered; it was next door to being married, 
and we laughed at the rolling of the vessel. Soon, however, we 
were carried up an endless flight of stairs. 



[174] Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon! 

"Mon Dieu! Mais c'est lourde!" gasped the hotel porter. 
"Quest-ce que c'est — dans la malle?" 

"Des livres," said the murderer, with the utmost sang-froid. 

"Paradis Retrouve, une edition complete," I whispered, and 
was rewarded with a kiss. 

Alone, as he thought, with his lifeless victim, the murderer 
sneered. "H'ya keeping?" said he coarsely, as he approached the 
trunk. 

He lifted the lid a little, and thrust his head within. A rim ran 
round inside; while yet he blinked, we seized it, and brought the 
lid down with a crash. 

"La guillotine?" I said cuttingly. 

"La Dejarge!" observed my adored one, knitting her brows. 

"Vive la France!" 

We stepped out; we put him inside. I retained his clothes. 
With a sheet from the bed, the bell rope, and a strip of carpet 
from before the wash-stand, she made a fetching Arab lass. To- 
gether we slipped out into the street. 

Night! Youth! Paris! And the moon! 






f»ftfffffff»ffff?fff»ffftfMffffffftfffff!fffffff ? ff?ff»f?ft»ffffffffff!ff»fftf ? tf!t f »!ff ? t!tf f f!ff ? fftf f f?ff f ffff f 

VARIATION 

ON A 

THEME 



J!W^ VARIATION OK A THEME .WW! 



A YOUNG MAN, WITH A BOWLER HAT, CANE, FLAXEN MOUSTACHE, 

and blue suit, was looking at a gorilla in a zoo. All about him 
were cages floored with squares of desert. On these yellow flats, 
like precise false statements of equatorial latitudes, lay the 
shadows of bars. There were nutshells, banana skins, fading let- 
tuce; there were the cries of birds who believed themselves mewed 
up because they were mad, the obeisance of giraffes, the yawns 
of lions. In an imitation of moon crags, mountain goats bore about 
ignobly eyes that were pieces of moon. The elephants, grey in a 
humidity of grass and dung, shifted from one foot to another. 
Jurassic days, it seemed, would quite definitely never be here 
again. Mice, moving with the speed of a nervous twitch, were 
bold in the freedom of a catastrophe of values. 

Perceiving that they were alone, the gorilla addressed the 
young man as follows: "You look very good-natured. Get me a 
suit like yours, only larger, a bowler hat, and a cane. We will dis- 
pense with the moustache. I want to get out of here. I got am- 
bitions." 

The young man was greatly taken aback to hear a gorilla speak. 
However, common sense reminded him that he was in a city in 
which many creatures enjoyed that faculty, whom, at first sight, 
or at any hearing, one would hardly credit with sufficient intelli- 
gence to have attained it. He therefore recovered from his won- 
der, but, having a nice sense of distinctions, he replied to the 
gorilla, "I do not see that I can do that, for the place for a gorilla 
is either a cage or the Congo. In the society of men you would 
be like a fish out of water, like a bull in a china shop, or a round 
peg in a square hole. You would be a cause of embarrassment, 
and would therefore yourself be embarrassed. You would be 
treated as an alien, disdained on account of your complexion, and 
slighted because of your facial angle." 

The gorilla was very much mortified by this reply, for he was 

[176] 



Variation on a Theme [177] 

extremely vain. "Here," he said, "y° u don't want to say that sort 
of thing. I'm a writer. Write you anything you like. I've written 
a novel." 

"That alters the situation entirely!" cried the young man with 
enthusiasm. "I am a novelist myself, and am always ready to 
lend a hand to a struggling fellow author. Tell me one thing only, 
and my services are yours. Have you genius?" 

"Yes," said the gorilla, "I certainly have." 

"In that case," said the young man, "I shall bring your suit, 
hat, cane, shoes, and body-linen at this hour tomorrow. I will also 
bring you a file, and you will find me awaiting you under the large 
chestnut tree by the West Gate, at the hour of dusk." 

The gorilla had not expected the file. As a matter of fact, he 
had asked for the outfit, not for purposes of escape, but in order 
to cut a figure before the public. He was rather like one of those 
prisoners who wrote from old Spain, and who were more inter- 
ested in what they got in than in how they got out. However, he 
hated to waste anything, so, having received the file, he put it 
to such use as enabled him to join his benefactor under the dark 
and summer tree. 

The young man, intoxicated by his own good action, shook the 
gorilla warmly by the hand. "My dear fellow," said he, "I can- 
not say how glad I am to see you out here among us. I am sure 
you have written a great novel in there; all the same, bars are 
very dangerous to literary men in the long run. You will find my 
little house altogether more propitious to your genius. Don't 
think that we are too desperately dull, however; everyone drops 
in on Sundays, and during the week we have a little dinner or 
two, at which you will meet the sort of people you should 
know. By the way, I hope you have not forgotten your manu- 
script." 

"Fellow came snooping in just as I was making my getaway," 
said the gorilla. "So I had to dump it. See?" This was the most 
villainous lie in the world, for the unscrupulous ape had never 
written so much as a word. 

"What a terrible pity!" cried the young man in dismay. "I 
suppose you feel you will have to return to it." 

"Not me," said the gorilla, who had been watching some singu- 
larly handsome limousines pass the spot where they were stand- 



[178] Variation on a Theme 

ing, and had noticed the faultless complexions and attractive 
toilettes of the ladies whom these limousines were conveying from 
one party to another. "No," said he. "Never mind. I got the whole 
thing in my head, You put me up: I'll write it out all over again. 
I don't worry." 

"Upon my word, I admire your spirit!" cried his deliverer en- 
thusiastically. "There is something uncommercial about that, 
which appeals to me more than I can say. I am sure you are right; 
the work will be even more masterly for being written over again. 
A thousand little felicities, necessarily brushed aside in the first 
headlong torrent of creativeness, will now assert their claims. 
Your characters will appear, so to speak, more in the round than 
formerly. You will forget some little details, though of course you 
will invent others even more telling; very well, those that you 
forget will be the real shadows, which will impart this superior 
roundness to your characters. Oh, there is nothing like litera- 
ture! You shall have a little study on the second floor, quiet, 
austere, but not uncomfortable, where you shall reconstruct your 
great work undisturbed. It will undoubtedly be the choice of the 
Book Society, and I really don't see why we should not hope for 
the Hawthornden as well." 

By this time they were strolling along under the dozing trees, 
each of which was full-gorged with a large block of the day's 
heat, still undigested, and breathed spicily upon them as they 
passed below. 

"We live quite near here," said the enthusiast. "My wife will 
be delighted to make your acquaintance. You two are going to 
be great friends. Here is the house: it is small, but luckily it is of 
just the right period, and as you see, we have the finest wistaria 
in London." Saying this, he pushed open a little wooden gate, 
one of some half-dozen in a quiet cul-de-sac, which still preserved 
its Queen Anne serenity and charm. The gorilla, looking discon- 
tentedly at certain blocks of mansion flats that towered up on 
either hand, said never a word. 

The front garden was very small: it had flagstones, irises, and 
an amusing urn, overflowing with the smouldering red of gera- 
niums, which burned in the velvet dark like the cigarette ends of 
the lesser gods. 
"We have a larger patch behind," said the young man, "where 



Variation on a Theme [179] 



there is a grass plot, nicotinias, and deck chairs in the shade of a 
fig tree. Come in, my dear fellow, come in. Joanna, where are you? 
Here is our new friend." 

"I hope," said the gorilla in a low voice, "you ain't given her 
the low-down on you know what/' 

"No, no," whispered his host. "I have kept our little secret. 
A gentleman from Africa, I said — who has genius." 

There was no time for more. Mrs. Grantly was descending the 
stairs. She was tall, with pale hair caught up in an unstudied knot 
behind, and a full-skirted gown which was artistic but not un- 
fashionable. 

"This is Mr. Simpson," said her husband. "My dear, Mr. Simp- 
son has written a book which is going to create more than a 
passing stir. Unfortunately he has lost the manuscript, but (what 
do you think?) he has consented to stay with us while he rewrites 
it. He has it all in his head. His name's er — er — Ernest." 

"How perfectly delightful!" cried Mrs. Grantly. "We live ter- 
ribly simply here, I'm afraid, but at least you will be quiet. Will 
you wash your hands? There is a little supper waiting for us in 
the dining-room." 

The gorilla, not accustomed to being treated with so much con- 
sideration, took refuge in an almost sullen silence. During the 
meal he spoke mostly in monosyllables, and devoured a pro- 
digious number of bananas, and his hostess, with teeth and eyes 
respectively. 

The young couple were as delighted by their visitor as children 
with a new toy. "He is unquestionably dynamic, original, and 
full of that true simplicity which is perhaps the clearest hall- 
mark of genius," said the young man when they were in bed to- 
gether. "Did you notice him with the bananas?" 

Mrs. Grantly folded her husband in her arms, which were de- 
lightfully long and round. "It will be wonderful," she said. "How 
I look forward to the day when both your books are published! 
He must meet the Booles and the Terrys. What discussions you 
will have! How delightful life is, to those who care for art!" They 
gave each other a score of kisses, talked of the days when first 
they had met, and fell happily asleep. 

In the morning there was a fine breakfast, with fruit juice, 
cereals, bacon and mushrooms, and the morning papers. The 



[180] Variation on a Theme 

gorilla was shown his little study; he tried the chairs and the sofa, 
and looked at himself in the glass. 

"Do you think you will be happy here?" asked Mr. Grantly 
very anxiously. "Is the room conducive to the right mood, do 
you think? There are cigarettes in that box; there's a lavatory 
across the landing. If you'd care to try a pipe, I have a tobacco 
jar I'll send up here. What about the desk? Is there everything 
on it that you'll require?" 

"I shall manage. I shall manage," said the gorilla, still looking 
at himself in the glass. 

"If there's anything you want, don't hesitate to ring that bell," 
said his host. "I've told the maids that you are now one of the 
family. I'm in the front room on the floor below if you want me. 
Well, I suppose you are burning to get to work. Till lunch time, 
then!" And with that he took his leave of the gorilla, who con- 
tinued to stare at himself in the glass. 

When he was tired of this, which was not for some time, he 
ate a few of the cigarettes, opened all the drawers, had a look up 
the chimney, estimated the value of the furniture, exposed his 
teeth very abominably, scratched, and finally flung himself on 
the sofa and began to make his plans. 

He was of that nature which sets down every disinterested 
civility as a sign of weakness. Moreover, he regarded his host as 
a ham novelist as well as a milksop, for he had not heard a single 
word about percentages since he entered the house. "A washout! 
A highbrow!" he said. "A guy like that giving the handout to a 
guy like me, eh? We'll soon alter that. The question is, how?" 

This gorilla wanted suits of a very light grey, pearl tie-pins, a 
superb automobile, blondes, and the society of the boys. Never- 
theless, his vanity itself was greedy, and snatched at every 
crumb; he was unable to resist the young man's enthusiasm for 
his non-existent novel, and instead of seeking his fortune as a 
heavy-weight pug, he convinced himself in good earnest that he 
was a writer, unjustly hindered by the patronage and fussing of 
a blood-sucking so-called intellectual. He turned the pages of 
half the books in the book-case to see the sort of thing he should 
do, but found it rather hard to make a start. "This goddam place 
stifles me," he said. 



Variation on a Theme [181] 

"What's your plot like?" said he to the young man, one day 
soon afterwards, when they were sitting in the shade of the fig 
tree. 

Grantly was good enough to recite the whole of his plot. "It 
sounds very trifling," he said, "but of course a lot depends on 
the style." 

"Style? Style, the hell!" observed the gorilla with a toothy 
sneer. 

"I thought you'd say that!" cried his entertainer. "No doubt 
you have all the vitality that I so consciously lack. I imagine 
your work as being very close to the mainsprings of life, the sultry 
passions, the crude lusts, the vital urges, the stark, the raw, the 
dynamic, the essentially fecund and primitive." 

"That's it," said the gorilla. 

"The sentence," continued the rhapsodist, "short to the point 
of curtness, attuned by a self-concealing art to the grunts, groans, 
and screams of women with great primeval paps, and men " 

"Sure," said the gorilla. 

"They knock each other down," went on his admirer. "As 
they taste the salt blood flowing over their lips, or see the female 
form suddenly grow tender under the influence of innumerable 
upper-cuts, right hooks, straight lefts, they become aware of an- 
other emotion " 

"Yes!" cried the gorilla with enthusiasm. 

"And with a cry that is half a sob ■" 

"Attaboy!" cried the gorilla. 

"They leap, clutch, grapple, and in an ecstasy that is half sheer 
bursting, burning, grinding, soul-shattering pain " 

The gorilla, unable to contain himself any longer, bit through 
the best branch of Mr. Grantly's fig tree. "You said it! That's my 
book, sir!" said he, with a mouthful of splinters. 

I hate to have to record it: this gorilla then rushed into the 
house and seized his hostess in a grip of iron. "I'm in a creative 
mood," he muttered thickly. 

Mrs. Grantly was not altogether free from hero worship: she 
had taken her husband's word for it that the gorilla was a genius 
of the fiercest description. She admired both his complexion and 
his eyes, and she, too, observed that his grip was of iron. 



[182] Variation on a Theme 

At the same time, she was a young woman of exquisite refine- 
ment. "I can't help thinking of Dennis," said she. "I should hate 
to hurt him." 

"Yeah?" cried the ill-bred anthropoid. "That poor fish? That 
ham writer? That bum artist? Don't you worry about him. I'll 
beat him up, baby! I'll " 

Mrs. Grantly interrupted him with some dignity. She was one 
of those truly noble women who would never dream of betray- 
ing their husbands, except at the bidding of a genuine passion, 
and with expressions of the most tender esteem. 

"Let me go, Ernest," she said, with such an air as compelled 
the vain ape to obey her. This ape, like all vulgarians, was very 
sensitive to any hint that he appeared low. "You do not raise 
yourself in my opinion by disparaging Dennis," she continued. 
"It merely shows you are lacking in judgment, not only of men 
but of women." 

"Aw, cut it out, Joanna," begged the humiliated gorilla. "See 
here: I only forgot myself. You know what we geniuses are!" 

"If you were not a genius," said Joanna, "I should have you 
turned out of the house. As it is — you shall have another chance." 

The gorilla had not the spirit to interpret these last words as 
liberally as some of us might. Perhaps it was because he had 
lived so long behind bars, but they fell upon his ear as upon that 
of some brutalized coward snuffling in the dock. The timid husky 
saw no invitation in Mrs. Grantly 's smile: he was panic-stricken 
at the thought of losing his snug quarters. 

"Say, you won't split on me, sister?" he muttered. 

"No, no," said Mrs. Grantly. "One takes the commonsense 
view of these trifles. But you must behave more nicely in future." 

"Sure," said he, much relieved. "I'll start in working right 
now." 

He went straightway up to his room, looked at himself in the 
glass, and thus, oddly enough, recovered his damaged self-esteem. 
"I'll show those po' whites how to treat a gentleman," said he. 
"What did that poor worm say? 'Leap — clutch — grapple — ' Oh 
boy! Oh boy! This book's goin' to sell like hot cakes." 

He scribbled away like the very devil. His handwriting was 
atrocious, but what of that? His style was not the best in the 
world; however, he was writing about life in the raw. A succes- 



Variation on a Theme [183] 

sion of iron grips, such as the one he had been forced to loosen, 
of violent consummations, interruptions, beatings-up, flowed 
from his pen, interspersed with some bitter attacks on effete civili- 
zation, and many eulogies of the primitive. 

"This'll make 'em sit up," said he. "This'll go big." 

When he went down to supper, he noticed some little chilliness 
in Mrs. Grantly's demeanor: this was no doubt due to his 
cowardly behavior in the afternoon. He trusted no one, and now 
became damnably afraid she would report his conduct to her 
husband; consequently he was the more eager to get his book 
done, so that he should be independent and in a position to re- 
venge himself. He went upstairs immediately after the meal, and 
toiled away till past midnight, writing like one who confesses to 
a Sunday newspaper. 

Before many days had passed in this fashion, he was drawing 
near the end of his work, when the Grantlys announced to him, 
with all the appearance of repressed excitement, that the best 
selling of all novelists was coming to dine with them. The gorilla 
looked forward to the evening with equal eagerness; he looked 
forward to gleaning a tip or two. 

The great man arrived; his limousine was sufficiently resplend- 
ent. The big ape eyed him with the very greatest respect all 
through the meal. Afterwards they sat about and took coffee, 
just as ordinary people do. "I hear," said the Best-Seller to 
Grantly, "that you are just finishing a novel." 

"Oh, the poor thing!" said the good-natured fellow. "Simpson, 
here, is the man who's going to set the Thames on fire. I fear mj 
stuff is altogether too niggling. It is a sort of social satire, I touch 
a little on the Church, Fleet Street, the Fascists — one or two 
things of that sort, but hardly in a full-blooded fashion. I wish 
I could write something more primitive — fecund women, the urge 
of lust, blood hatred, all that, you know." 

"Good heavens, my dear Grantly!" cried the great man. "This 
comes of living so far out of the world. You really must move to 
some place more central. Public taste is on the change. I can 
assure you, that before your book can be printed, Mr. Glitters" 
(he mentioned the critic who makes or breaks) "will no longer 
be engaged, but married, and to a young woman of Junoesque 
proportions. What chance do you think the urge of lust will have 



[184] Variation on a Theme 

with poor Glitters, after a month of his marriage to this mag- 
nificently proportioned young woman? No, no, my boy; stick to 
social satire. Put a little in about feminism, if you can find room 
for it. Guy the cult of the he-man, and its effect on deluded 
women, and you're safe for a record review. You'll be made." 

"I've got something of that sort in it," said Grantly with much 
gratification, for authors are like beds; even the most artistic re- 
quires to be made. 

"Who's doing the book for you?" cried the novelist enthusias- 
tically. "You must let me give you a letter to my publisher. 
Nothing is more disheartening than hawking a book round the 
market, and having it returned unread. But Sykes is good enough 
to set some weight on my judgment; in fact, I think I may say, 
without boasting, you may look on the matter as settled." 

"Say, you might give me a letter too!" cried the gorilla, who 
had been listening in consternation to the great man's discourse. 

"I should be delighted, Mr. Simpson," returned that worthy 
with great suavity. "But you know what these publishers are. 
Pig-headed isn't the word for them. Well, Grantly, I must be 
getting along. A delightful evening! Mrs. Grantly," said he, slap- 
ping his host on the shoulder, "this is the man who is going to 
make us old fossils sit up. Take care of him. Give him some more 
of that delicious zabaglione. Good night. Good night." 

The gorilla was tremendously impressed by the great man's 
manner, his confidence, his pronouncements, his spectacles, his 
limousine, and above all by the snub he had given him, for such 
creatures are always impressed by that sort of thing. "That guy 
knows the works," he murmured in dismay. "Say, I been barking 
up the wrong tree! I oughta gone in for style." 

The Grantlys returned from the hall, where they had accom- 
panied their visitor, and it was obvious from their faces that they 
too placed great reliance on what they had heard. I am not sure 
that Mr. Grantly did not rub his hands. 

"Upon my word!" he said. "It certainly sounds likely enough. 
Have you ever seen Glitters' fiancee? His views will certainly 
change. Ha! Ha! Supposing, my dear, I became a best-seller?" 

"It's terribly exciting!" cried Joanna. "Will it change your idea 
of going on a cruise when first the book comes out?" 

"No, no," said he. "I think an author should detach himself 






Variation on a Theme [185] 

from that side, however gratifyingly it may develop. I want to 
know nothing of the book from the moment it appears till it is 
forgotten." 

"What? You going to spend a coupla days at Brighton?" struck 
in the gorilla bitterly. 

"Ha! Ha! What a satirist you would make!" cried Grantly with 
the greatest good nature. "No. We thought of going for a trip 
round the world. I agree a shorter absence would outlast what- 
ever stir the book may make; however, we want to see the sights. 5 ' 

The gorilla wrote never a word that night. He was overcome 
with mortification. He could not bear to think of the Grantlys 
sailing around the world, while the book he had despised piled 
up enormous royalties at home. Still less could he bear the 
thought of staying behind, left without a patron, and with his 
own book piling up no royalties at all. He saw a species of insult 
in his host's "striking gold" as he termed it, and then turning his 
back on it in this fashion. 

"That guy don't deserve the boodle!" he cried in anguish of 
spirit. In fact, he uttered this sentiment so very often during the 
night that in the end an idea was born of its mere repetition. 

During the next few days he hastily and carelessly finished his 
own masterpiece, to have it ready against the coup he planned. 
In a word, this vile ape had resolved to change the manuscripts: 
he had alternative title pages, in which the names of the authors 
were transposed, typed in readiness. When at last the good 
Grantly announced that his work was complete, the gorilla an- 
nounced the same; the two parcels were done up on the same 
evening, and the plotter was insistent in his offers to take them 
to the post. 

Grantly was the more willing to permit this, as he and his 
wife were already busy with preparations for their departure. 
Shortly afterwards, they took their farewell of the gorilla, and, 
pressing into his hand a tidy sum to meet his immediate necessi- 
ties, they wished his book every success, and advised that his 
next should be a satire. 

The cunning ape bade them enjoy themselves, and took up his 
quarters in Bloomsbury, where he shortly had the pleasure of 
receiving a letter from the publishers to say that they were ac- 
cepting the satirical novel which he had sent them. 



[186] Variation on a Theme 

He now gave himself great airs as a writer, and got all the 
publicity he could. On one occasion, however, he was at a party, 
where he beheld a woman of Junoesque proportions in the com- 
pany of a bilious weakling. The party was a wild one, and he 
made no scruple of seizing her in a grip of iron, regardless of the 
fury of her companion. This incident made little impression on 
his memory, for he attended a good many Bloomsbury parties. 

All the same, nothing is entirely unimportant. It so happened 
that the bilious weakling was no other than Glitters, the greatest 
of critics, and the Junoesque lady was his promised spouse. The 
critic reviewed her behavior very bitterly, the engagement was 
broken off, and you may be sure he noted the name of the author 
of his misfortunes. 

Very well, the two books came out: Dennis's, which the gorilla 
had stolen, and the gorilla's own raw outpourings, which now 
appeared under the name of Dennis Grantly. By a coincidence, 
they appeared on the same day. The gorilla opened the greatest 
Sunday newspaper, and saw the pleasing headline, "Book of the 
Century." 

"That's me!" said he, smacking his lips, and fixing a hungry 
gaze on the letter-press, he discovered to his horror that it ac- 
tually was. The critic, still a celibate, and by now an embittered 
one also, had selected the anthropoid's original tough stuff as 
being "raw, revealing, sometimes dangerously frank, at all times 
a masterpiece of insight and passion." Farther down, in fact at 
the very bottom of the column, the stolen satire was dismissed 
in two words only — "unreadably dull." 

As if this misfortune was not sufficient, the next day the poor 
gorilla was leaving his lodgings when a young man in a black 
shirt tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he was Mr. 
Simpson. The gorilla replying in the affirmative, the black shirt 
introduced him to a dozen or so friends of his, similarly attired. 
It appeared that these young gentlemen disapproved of certain 
references Grantly had made to their association, and had de- 
cided to give the wretched Simpson a beating-up by way of 
acknowledgment. 

The gorilla fought like a demon, but was overpowered by num- 
bers; in the end he was flogged insensible and left lying in the 
mews where the ceremony had taken place. It was not till the 



Variation on a Theme [187] 

next morning that he dragged himself home; when he arrived 
there, he found a bevy of lawyers' clerks and policemen inquiring 
for him. It appeared that Dennis, for all his delicacy and re- 
straint, had been guilty of blasphemy, ordinary libel, obscene 
libel, criminal libel, sedition, and other things, in his references to 
the State, the Church, and so forth. "Who would have thought," 
the gorilla moaned bitterly, "that there was all that in a little 
bit of style?' , 

During the various trials, he sat in a sullen silence, caring only 
to look at the newspapers which contained advertisements of 
the book he had substituted for Grantly's. When the sales passed 
a hundred thousand, he became violent, and insulted the judge. 
When they reached double that figure he made a despairing at- 
tempt at confession, but this was put down as a clumsy simula- 
tion of insanity. In the end his sentences amounted to a book in 
themselves, and were issued in serial form. He was carted off, 
and put behind the bars. 

"All this," said he, "comes of wanting a suit of clothes for the 
public to see me in. I've got the clothes, but I don't like them, 
and the public aren't allowed in anyway." This gave him a posi- 
tive hatred of literature, and one who hates literature, and is 
moreover in quod for an interminable period of years, is in a 
truly miserable condition. 

As for Dennis Grantly: by the time he returned, he was so 
much the fashionable author that he never found a moment in 
which to open a book again, and thus he remained happily ig- 
norant of the fraud. His wife, when she reflected on the fame and 
riches won by her husband, and remembered that afternoon 
when she had been almost too favorably impressed by the iron 
grip of the primitive, frequently went up to him and gave him 
an uninvited hug and kiss, and these hugs and kisses afforded 
him a very delicious gratification. 



^mt^^?tf^ttf^?tf^t OLD ACQUAINTANCE ^!!fflffl!^ 



THE APARTMENT, ON A FIFTH FLOOR IN THE HuitiSme ArTOIldisse- 

ment, was pervaded by the respectable smell of furniture polish. 
The Parisian menage of 40,000 francs a year smells either thus, 
or of a certain perfume, which indicates quite a different way of 
living. 

Monsieur and Madame Dupres, admirably fitted by tempera- 
ment for the rotund connubialities of a more spicily scented 
dwelling, nevertheless had dwindled away twenty years of life in 
the austere aroma of furniture polish. This was because of an in- 
tense though unacknowledged jealousy, which had early inclined 
both parties to the mortification of their own flesh. 

Monsieur had been jealous because he had suspected that 
Madame was not without certain regrets when they married. 
Madame had been jealous rather in the manner of a miser who 
underpays his servant and therefore suspects his honesty. It is 
true that, on the rare occasions when they visited the cafe, 
Monsieur would look round for a copy of La Vie Parisienne, and 
if there was a picture in it that interested him his eyes would 
remain riveted on it for five minutes at a stretch. 

Hence the unvoluptuous furniture of Parisian puritanism, and 
hence its weekly anointings with the pungent resins of respect- 
ability. 

Now, in the bedroom, the smell of medicine was added. Madame 
Dupres lay dying of a frugal pneumonia. Her husband sat beside 
the bed, unfolding his handkerchief in hopeful expectation of a 
tear, and craving damnably for a smoke. 

"My dear," said Madame faintly, "what are you thinking 
about? I said: 'Get the gloves at Pascal's. There the prices are 
not beyond all reason.' " 

"My dear," replied her husband, "excuse me. I was thinking 
of long ago: how we used to go about together, you and I and 
Robert, in the days before he went to Martinique, before you and 

[190] 



Old Acquaintance [ 191 ] 

I were married. What friends we were! We would have shared 
our last cigarette." 

"Robert! Robert!" murmured Madame Dupres. "I wish you 
could be at my funeral." 

At these words a ray of light fell into a long-neglected corner 
of Monsieur's mind. "Holy saints!" cried he, slapping his knee. 
"It was Robert, then, all the time?" 

Madame Dupres made no reply; only smiled, and expired. Her 
husband, a little at a loss as to what to do, kissed her lifeless 
brow once or twice, tried kneeling by the bedside, got up, and 
brushed his knees. "Twenty years!" he murmured, stealing a 
glance at the mirror. "Now I must let the doctor know, the 
notary, the undertaker, Aunt Gabrielle, the cousins, the Blan- 
chards. I must call at the Mairie. I can hardly get a smoke at the 
Mairie. 

"I could have a puff here, but people coming in would smell it. 
It would savor of a lack of respect for the dead. Perhaps if I 
went down to the street door, just for five minutes . . . After all, 
what are five minutes, after twenty years?" 

So Monsieur Dupres descended to the street door, where he 
stood on the step, conscious of the soft air of early evening, and 
inhaling the first puff from his long-awaited cigarette. As he drew 
in his first puff, a smile of the utmost satisfaction overspread his 
plump features. 

"Ah, my poor Monsieur Dupres," said the concierge, emerg- 
ing suddenly from her den, "how goes it with Madame? She 
suffers?" 

Conscious of his cigarette and his smile, Monsieur Dupres felt 
he could hardly explain that his wife had passed away but a 
minute before. "Thank you," said he, "she suffers no longer. She 
sleeps." 

The concierge expressed optimism. "After all," she said, 
"Madame is from Angers. You know the proverb about the 
women of Angers." 

She prattled on in this vein; Monsieur Dupres paid no atten- 
tion. "I will go upstairs," thought he, "and make the sad dis- 
covery. Then I can return and confront this old cow with a more 
appropriate countenance. 

"And then, my God! there is the doctor, the notary, the fu- 



[192] Old Acquaintance 

neral arrangements, aunts, cousins . . . My cigarette is done al- 
ready, and I scarcely noticed I was smoking it. In a civilized 
country a bereaved should be left alone with his regrets." 

The concierge retired, but would undoubtedly soon return to 
the attack. Monsieur Dupres felt that he could do with another 
cigarette, but this time a cigarette smoked under better condi- 
tions, so that its healing task might be accomplished unhindered. 
His nervous condition demanded a seat in a modest cafe, a glass 
of Pernod before him, and all about him the salutary air of 
cafes, which is infinitely more fragrant than furniture polish. 

"A cigarette, a Pernod," thought Monsieur Dupres, "and then 
a good meal! A good meal calls for a glass of cognac afterwards: 
the digestion requires it, the doctors recommend it. And yet — 
what is one glass of cognac? 

"I will tell you," said he to a passing dog. "The first glass of 
cognac is utilitarian merely. It is like a beautiful woman, who 
has, however, devoted herself entirely to doing good; to nursing, 
for example. Nothing is more admirable, but one would like to 
meet her sister. The second glass, on the other hand, is that self- 
same sister, equally beautiful, and with leisure for a little harm- 
less diversion. . . . Twenty years!" 

Monsieur Dupres went upstairs for his hat. 

He decided to go to the Victoire on the Boulevard Mont- 
parnasse. It was there they used to celebrate, he and she and 
Robert, in the old student days, whenever they were in funds. 
"It will be, in effect, an act of homage," thought he, "far better 
than disturbing her rest with doctors and cousins. And the cuisine 
used to be superb." 

Soon he was comfortably seated at the Victoire, with a mon- 
ster Pernod before him. Every sip was like a caress, and, like a 
caress, led to another. Monsieur Dupres ordered a second, and 
permitted himself to glance at the pages of La Vie Parisienne. 

"There is no doubt about it," said he to himself, "life is what 
you choose to make it." He looked about him in search of a little 
raw material. "Those two girls over there," thought he, "are 
probably good-natured to a fault. I wonder if they wear little 
articles like those in this picture." 

His imagination conjured up a scene which he found incredibly 
diverting. He was compelled to snigger through his nose. He ex- 



Old Acquaintance [193] 

perienced an ardent desire to slap somebody. "What in the world 
have I been doing," thought he, "all these twenty years? Noth- 
ing!" 

He looked up again, with the intention of darting a certain 
sort of glance at the two young ladies who had appealed to his 
fancy. He was mortified to see that they were gone. 

He looked around the cafe, in the hope that they had only 
changed their table, and saw, to his overwhelming surprise, at a 
table quite near him, with a monster Pernod before her, none 
other than Madame Dupres herself, apparently in the best of 
health, and wearing her grey hat. 

She was at once aware of his regard, compressed her lips, and 
stifled a giggle, which exploded like soda-water within. She then 
fixed him with an eye as quizzical as a parrot's eye. Monsieur 
Dupres, taking up his glass, made haste to join his spouse. "My 
dear," said he, "I came out to recover my calm." 

Madame made no answer, only downed the second half of her 
Pernod at a single swig, and, replacing the glass on the table, 
fixed her eye unwaveringly upon it till her husband signalled the 
waiter. "Another Pernod," said he. "In fact, bring two." 

The power of conscience is so great, in a small way, that Mon- 
sieur Dupres, on being discovered in the cafe, could not help 
feeling that his wife knew his most secret intentions, even those 
concerning the two young ladies. He anticipated a volley of re- 
proaches. You may imagine his relief when he saw that Madame 
was cocking her eye at him in the most tolerant and understand- 
ing fashion over the rim of her glass, the contents of which were 
drawn up as if by magic into the refined pouting of her lips. 
"Marie," said he with a smile, "perhaps we have lived too nar- 
rowly, as it were. After all, this is the twentieth century. What 
a magnificent figure of a woman you really are!" 

Madame Dupres smiled indulgently. At that moment the door 
swung violently open, and a man entered, who looked about him 
on all sides. Monsieur Dupres looked at this man. "Impossible!" 
said he. "As I was saying, Marie, I have a delicious idea. Prepare 
yourself to be shocked." 

Madame Dupres, however, had noticed the newcomer. She 
smiled delightedly, and waved her hand. Smiling also, but not 
evincing any surprise, the newcomer hastened over. 



[194] Old Acquaintance 

"Robert!" cried Madame Dupres. 

"God in heaven!" cried Monsieur. "It is Robert." 

No words can express the felicity of these three old friends, 
bound together by memories which were only mellowed by the 
passage of twenty years. Besides, they were already half tight, 
for it was apparent that Robert also had been indulging in an 
aperitif or two. "Fancy seeing you!" said he to Monsieur Dupres. 
"What a small world it is! There is really no room to do any- 
thing." 

Monsieur Dupres was equally incoherent. He could do nothing 
but slap Robert on the back. They had a last round, and moved 
into the restaurant on the other side of the partition. 

"What have you been doing all these years?" asked Robert as 
they seated themselves. 

"Nothing very much," said Madame Dupres. 

"Oho!" cried Robert, smiling all over his face. "Is that so? What 
a magnificent evening we shall have! Tonight we drink the wine 
we could never afford in the old days. You know the wine I mean, 
Marie?" 

"You mean the Hermitage," said Monsieur Dupres, who al- 
ready had his nose in the list. "Eighty francs. Why not? To the 
devil with eighty francs! A wine like that puts all sorts of ideas 
into one's head. Champagne first. Why not? Like a wedding. Only 
better." 

"Bravo!" cried Robert. "You have neatly expressed it." 

"What shall we eat?" said Monsieur Dupres. "Study the menu, 
my children, instead of looking at one another as if you were 
raised from the dead. We must have something spicy. Marie, if 
you eat garlic, I must eat garlic. He! He! He!" 

"No garlic," said Robert. 

"No garlic," said Madame Dupres. 

"What?" said her husband. "You know you adore it." 

"One's tastes change," said Madame. 

"You are right," said her husband. "That was what I was saying 
when Robert came in. I wish the fal-lal shops were open. Marie, I 
would like to buy you a little present. Something I saw in a maga- 
zine. Heavens, what wickedness there is in the world! The air 
seems full of it. Marie, we have wasted our time. Here is the cham- 
pagne. Here is a toast. After Lent, the Carnival!" 



Old Acquaintance [195] 

"After Lent, the Carnival!" cried the others, in the highest good 
humor, touching their glasses together. 

"Why be ashamed?" said Monsieur Dupres, laughing heartily. 
"We have been married twenty years, Marie. Robert has been in 
Martinique. There, they are black. What of it?" 

"What of it?" echoed Madame, filliping Robert on the nose, and 
giggling uncontrollably. 

"Embrace one another!" cried Monsieur Dupres, suddenly, and 
in a voice of thunder. He rose in his chair to put an arm round 
each of them. "Go on. Give her a kiss. She had a weakness for 
you in the old days. You didn't know that, my boy. I know now: 
I know everything. I remember on the night of our nuptials, I 
thought: 'She has a weakness for somebody.' Twenty years! 
Marie, you have never looked more beautiful than you look to- 
night. What is twenty times three hundred and sixty-five?" Over- 
come by the enormous figure that resulted, Monsieur Dupres burst 
into tears. 

While he wept, the others, who were as drunk as he was, leaned 
across the table, their foreheads now and then colliding, while 
they chuckled inanely. 

With the arrival of the brandy, Monsieur Dupres emerged into 
a calmer mood. "The thing to do," said he, "is to make up for lost 
time. Do you not agree with me?" 

"Perfectly," said Robert, kissing him on both cheeks. 

"Regard her," said Monsieur Dupres. "A woman of forty. Oh, if 
only those little shops were open! Robert, old friend, a word in 
your ear." 

Robert inclined that organ, but Monsieur Dupres was unable to 
utter the promised confidence. He was capable of nothing but a 
sputter of laughter, which obliged Robert to use his napkin as a 
towel. 

"To the devil with your little shops!" said Robert. "We need 
nothing. There are cafes, bars, bistros, boites, night clubs, caba- 
rets, everything. To the boulevard, all three!" 

With that, he sprang up. The others unsteadily followed him. 
On the street everyone looked at them with a smile. Madame's 
respectable grey hat fell over her nose. She gave it a flick, and 
sent it equally far over to the back of her head. They linked arms, 
and began to sing a song about a broken casserole. 



[196] Old Acquaintance 

They visited several bars, and emerged from each more hilari- 
ous than before. The men, crouching down so that their overcoats 
trailed along the ground, shuffled along in imitation of dwarves, 
as they had done in their student days. Madame was so exces- 
sively amused that she was compelled to retire into the midnight 
shadows of the little alley that runs between the Rue Guillaume 
and the Avenue des Gascons. 

"I suppose," hiccuped Monsieur Dupres, when she rejoined 
them, "I suppose we should soon be going home." 

Robert expressed his contempt for this notion wordlessly though 
not soundlessly. "Mes amis** said he, facing round, and putting 
a hand on a shoulder of each, while he surveyed them with a comi- 
cal and a supplicating face, "Tries amis, Tries amis, pourquoi pas le 
bordel?" At this he was overcome by a fit of silly laughter, which 
was soon echoed by the others. 

"It is, after all, the twentieth century," chuckled Monsieur 
Dupres. "Besides, we must consider our friend Robert." 

"It is in the nature of an occasion," said Madame. "It is a little 
reunion." 

Accordingly they staggered in the direction of an establishment 
known as the Trois Jolies Japonaises, the staff of which would no 
doubt have worn kimonos were it not for the excessive warmth of 
the premises. This warmth was the undoing of Monsieur Dupres. 
They had no sooner seated themselves at a table in the lower salon 
than he found it necessary to cool his face on the glass table top, 
and immediately fell sound asleep. 

After a humane interval, gentle hands must have guided him to 
the door, and perhaps given him a gentle push, which set his legs 
in motion after the manner of clock-work. At all events, he some- 
how or other got home. 

Next morning he woke on the narrow sofa in the dining-room 
of his apartment, and smelled again the refreshing odor of furni- 
ture polish. He found his head and stomach disordered, and his 
mind half crazy: he had only a vague memory of great dissipation 
the night before. 

"Thank heaven she has been spared this!" thought he, looking 
guiltily at the closed door of the bedroom. "It would have upset 
her appallingly. But what? Am I mad? Do I remember her some- 



Old Acquaintance [197] 

where last night? What poison they serve in these days! Yet . . . 
No, it is impossible. 

"I must call the doctor," he said. "The undertaker, too. Notary, 
aunts, cousins, friends, all the damned fry. Oh, my poor head!" 
As he spoke he was proceeding towards the bedroom, and now he 
opened the door. His brain reeled when he found his family busi- 
ness would not after all be necessary. The bed was empty. Madame 
Dupres was gone. 

Clasping his brow, Monsieur Dupres staggered from the room, 
and more fell than walked down the five flights of stairs to the 
conciergerie. "Madame!" cried he to that experienced vigilant. 
"My wife is gone!" 

"I saw her go out last night," replied the concierge. "I saw her 
grey hat go by soon after you had left." 

"But she is dead!" cried Monsieur Dupres. 

"Impossible," replied the concierge. "I would not discompose 
you, Monsieur, but Madame was from Angers. You know the 
proverb." 

With that she retired into her lodge, shrugging her shoulders. 

"It was, then," cried Monsieur Dupres, "a plot, between her 
and that abominable Robert! I had better notify the police." 

He took the street car to the Chatelet, and, just as it was jolting 
along at its fastest, he thought he saw them, still drunk, in broad 
daylight, staggering round a corner in the Rue de Clichy. By the 
time he had stopped the car and hurried back, they had utterly 
disappeared. 

Feeling completely overcome, Monsieur Dupres gave up his er- 
rand, and decided to go home and rest a little, and took a taxi-cab 
to get there the sooner. This taxi was halted in a traffic block, and 
from it Monsieur Dupres saw quite distinctly, in a cab passing 
across the very nose of his own taxi, his wife and his friend, locked 
in each other's arms, scandalously drunk, and quite oblivious of 
his existence. "Follow that cab!" cried he. 

The driver did his best. They followed a cab all the way to the 
Porte de Neuilly, only to see an elderly gentleman, probably an 
ambassador, descend from it. 

Monsieur Dupres paid the fare, which was no trifle, and made 
his way back on the Metro. He had just descended from the train, 



[198] Old Acquaintance 

when he saw two people, getting in at the very far end, who were 
experiencing some difficulty in negotiating the narrow door, for 
their arms were about each other's waists. He started toward 
them, the doors slammed all along the train, and in a moment it 
had pulled out of the station. 

Monsieur Dupres leaned against the wall. "Is it not my old 
friend, Dupres?" asked a man who had just come onto the plat- 
form. "I see it is. My dear fellow, are you ill?" 

"Ill enough," replied Monsieur Dupres, utterly shattered. "My 
wife has left me, my dear Labiche. She has left me for Robert 
Crespigny, and they are behaving abominably all over the town." 

"No. No, my dear friend," replied the other. "Set your mind at 
rest, I implore you. We husbands are sometimes more suspicious 
even than we should be. Crespigny cannot have taken your wife, 
my dear fellow. I saw him only three months ago, back from Mar- 
tinique and in hospital. He died a week later. Out there, their ex- 
cesses are something formidable." 



iH?fl£tttl!ttflHJf ??7? * ??7? t ffff f ffff f ?Tff f ffff f ff?f f f?ff f ffff f ffff t ff?f t ff?f f fTff t ffff f ffff f ff?f f ffff f ffff f fffT < 



AH, THE 
UNIVERSITY! 



f^!tf^Uj^l!jj!!tj^!S AH, THE UNIVERSITY! ^^^^ 






JUST OUTSIDE OF LONDON THERE LIVED AN OLD FATHER WHO DEARLY 

loved his only son. Accordingly, when the boy was a youngster of 
some eighteen years, the old man sent for him and, with a benev- 
olent glimmer of his horn-rimmed spectacles, said, "Well, Jack, 
you are now done with preparatory school. No doubt you are look- 
ing forward to going to the university." 

"Yes, Dad, I am," said the son. 

"You show good judgment," said the father. "The best years of 
one's whole life are unquestionably those which are spent at the 
university. Apart from the vast honeycomb of learning, the mellow 
voices of the professors, the venerable gray buildings, and the 
atmosphere of culture and refinement, there is the delight of being 
in possession of a comfortable allowance." 

"Yes, Dad," said the son. 

"Rooms of one's own," continued the father, "little dinners to 
one's friends, endless credit with the tradespeople, pipes, cigars, 
claret, Burgundy, clothes." 

"Yes, Dad," said the son. 

"There are exclusive little clubs," said the old man, "all sorts of 
sports, May Weeks, theatricals, balls, parties, rags, binges, scaling 
of walls, dodging of proctors, fun of every conceivable description." 

"Yes! Yes, Dad!" cried the son. 

"Certainly nothing in the world is more delightful than being at 
the university," said the father. "The springtime of life! Pleasure 
after pleasure! The world seems a whole dozen of oysters, each 
with a pearl in it. Ah, the university! However, I'm not going to 
send you there." 

"Then why the hell do you go on so about it?" said poor Jack. 

"I did so in order that you might not think I was carelessly un- 
derestimating the pleasures I must call upon you to renounce," 
said his father. "You see, Jack, my health is not of the best; noth- 
ing but champagne agrees with me, and if I smoke a second-rate 

[200] 



Ah, the University [ 201 ] 

cigar, I get a vile taste in my mouth. My expenses have mounted 
abominably and I shall have very little to leave to you, yet my 
dearest wish is to see you in a comfortable way of life.'* 

"If that is your wish, you might gratify it by sending me to the 
university," said Jack. 

"We have to think of the future," said his father. "You will have 
your living to earn. Unless you are content to be a schoolmaster or 
a curate, you are not likely to gain any great advantage from the 
university." 

"Then what am I to be?" the young man asked. 

"I read only a little while ago," said his father, "the following 
words, which flashed like sudden lightning upon the gloom in 
which I was considering your future: 'Most players are weak.' The 
words came from a little brochure upon the delightful and uni- 
versally popular game of poker. It is a game which is played for 
counters, commonly called chips, and each of these chips repre- 
sents an agreeable sum of money." 

"Do you mean that I am to be a card-sharper?" cried the son. 

"Nothing of the sort," replied the old man promptly. "I am ask- 
ing you to be strong, Jack. I am asking you to show initiative, in- 
dividuality. Why learn what everyone else is learning? You, my 
dear boy, shall be the first to study poker as systematically as 
others study languages, science, mathematics, and so forth — 
the first to tackle it as a student. I have set aside a cozy little 
room with chair, table, and some completely new packs of 
cards. A bookshelf contains several standard works on the game 
and a portrait of Mr. Chamberlain hangs above the mantel- 
piece." 

The young man's protests were vain, so he set himself reluc- 
tantly to study. He worked hard, mastered the books, wore the 
spots off a dozen packs of cards, and at the end of the second year 
he set out into the world with his father's blessing and enough cash 
to sit in on a few games of penny ante. 

After Jack left, the old man consoled himself with his glass of 
champagne and his first-rate cigar and those other little pleasures 
which are the solace of the old and the lonely. He was getting on 
very well with these when one day the telephone rang. It was an 
overseas call from Jack, whose very existence the old man had 
forgotten. 



[202] Ah, the University 

"Hullo, Dad!" cried the son in tones of great excitement. "I'm 
in Paris, sitting in on a game of poker with some Americans." 

"Good luck to you," said the old man, preparing to hang up the 
receiver. 

"Listen, Dad!" cried the son. "It's like this. Well — just for once 
I'm playing without any limit." 

"Lord have mercy on you!" said the old man. 

"There's two of them still in," said the son. "They've raised me 
fifty thousand dollars and I've already put up every cent I've got." 

"I would rather," groaned the old man, "see a son of mine at 
the university than in such a situation." 

"But I've got four kings!" cried the young man. 

"You can be sure the others have aces or straight flushes," said 
the old man. "Back down, my poor boy. Go out and play for ciga- 
rette ends with the habitues of your doss house." 

"But listen, Dad!" cried the son. "This is a stud round. I've seen 
an ace chucked in. I've seen tens and fives chucked in. There isn't 
a straight flush possible." 

"Is that so?" cried the old man. "Never let it be said I didn't 
stand behind my boy. Hold everything. I'm coming to your assist- 
ance." 

The son went back to the card table and begged his opponents 
to postpone matters until his father could arrive, and they, smiling 
at their cards, were only too willing to oblige him. 

A couple of hours later the old man arrived by plane at Le Bour- 
get, and shortly thereafter, he was standing beside the card table, 
rubbing his hands, smiling, affable, the light glinting merrily upon 
his horn-rimmed spectacles. He shook hands with the Americans 
and noted their prosperous appearances. "Now what have we 
here?" said he, sliding into his son's seat and fishing out his money. 

"The bet," said one of the opponents, "stands at fifty thousand 
dollars. Seen by me. It's for you to see or raise." 

"Or run," said the other. 

"I trust my son's judgment," said the old man. "I shall raise fifty 
thousand dollars before I even glance at these cards in my hand." 
With that he pushed forward a hundred thousand dollars of his 
own money. 

"I'll raise that hundred thousand dollars," said the first of his 
opponents. 



Ah, the University [203] 

"I'll stay and see," said the other. 

The old man looked at his cards. His face turned several colors 
in rapid succession. A low and quavering groan burst from his lips 
and he was seen to hesitate for a long time, showing all the signs of 
an appalling inward struggle. At last he summoned up his courage 
and, pushing out his last hundred thousand (which represented all 
the cigars, champagne, and other little pleasures he had to look 
forward to) , he licked his lips several times and said, "I'll see you." 

"Four kings," said the first opponent, laying down his hand. 

"Hell!" said the second. "Four queens." 

"And I," moaned the old man, "have four knaves." With that he 
turned about and seized his son by the lapels of his jacket, shaking 
him as a terrier does a rat. "Curse the day," said he, "that I ever 
became the father of a damned fool!" 

"I swear I thought they were kings," cried the young man. 

"Don't you know that the V is for valets?" said his father. 

"Good God!" the son said. "I thought the V was something to 
do with French kings. You know, Charles V and all those Louises. 
Oh, what a pity I was never at the university!" 

"Go," said the old man. "Go there, or go to hell or wherever you 
wish. Never let me see or hear from you again." And he stamped 
out of the room before his son or anyone else could say a word, 
even to tell him it was high-low stud they were playing and that 
the four knaves had won half the pot. 

The young man, pocketing his share, mused that ignorance of 
every sort is deplorable, and, bidding his companions farewell, left 
Paris without further delay and very soon he was entered at the 
university. 



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AFTER 
THE BALL 



?Uf?fIVf^!jfiUtfjUjfj!ltf AFTER THE BALL ^r^r^j^S^ 



Which, if in hell no other paines there were, 
Makes mee feare hell, because he must be there. 

Dr. John Donne 

when mr. dickinson put his hand down under the bed, to re- 
trieve his fallen handkerchief, it was at once seized by another 
hand, hairy and hard as iron, but, even as the nervous gentleman's 
mild blood stood prickling in his veins, it was pressed, with un- 
mistakable reverence and amity, to a pair of bristly lips. 

"Oh!" thought Mr. Dickinson, and, withdrawing his hand, he 
sat bolt upright, tense in every nerve, in the very middle of his 
bed. 

"Who's there?" he cried. 

"Only me," said the fiend, who still crouched submissively be- 
low. 

"Come out of that," said Mr. Dickinson at last, for he was 
greatly reassured by the meek and piping tone of this answer. The 
fiend bumped and scuffled out, and stood sheepishly on the 
hearth-rug. 

What an oaf! His voice had belied him. He was much the size 
and shape of the largest gorilla, and his hulking body was covered 
with a short, napless fur, like that of a nasty toy, cheap and gin- 
gerish. This fur showed through the gaps in his costume, which 
was infinitely too small for him, for he had stolen it, on his way 
here, from a little curate half his size, the better to commend him- 
self to Mr. Dickinson, who abhorred the nude. 

A word as to the natures of these two, thus dramatically met at 
midnight in the first-floor front bedroom of 10 Bosky n Road, N. 
14. 

Dickinson, a bachelor in the best sense of that much abused 
term, had led a stainless life. Surrounded by luxury, for he was a 
cashier in one of our largest stores, he had never allowed luxury 

[206] 



After the Ball [207] 



to lead him astray. His stamps tallied: his books, best nutriment 
of commerce, were uncooked. The racecourse knew him not, the 
bar and billiard saloon had offered their allure unavailingly. For 
all that, he was no nincompoop who had never known temptation. 
If the young ladies of the store withheld their hopeless coquetry, 
awed by his Galahad eye, it was nevertheless his need daily to steel 
himself against the gleaming and rounded battalions of beauty, 
for the way to his desk lay through the corset department, and at 
an hour when the simpering nymphs, still ungarbed, stood in all 
the sweet shamelessness of their rosy wax. In his progress down 
this Cytherean aisle, Mr. Dickinson's emotion was such that his 
Adam's-apple might have lent a needed inspiration to the lift-boy, 
but, swiftly as it leapt up to his very teeth, it always subsided, so 
to speak, unbitten. 

It was this experience of the dark god, or devil, within the 
masculine blood-stream, that made our hero so enthusiastic a 
murmurer of "Hear, hear!" at meetings of the Anti-Sunbathing 
Association. His own pure flesh was, I am glad to say, never ex- 
posed. Save where the veins ran like azure rivulets just beneath 
the skin, it was white as a gardenia under the chaste and cosy 
wool. His corns, though, were his martyrdom. 

Enough of Dickinson. Who was the fiend? 

He was, of all Hell's legions, the most calfish hobbledehoy, 
stupid to such a degree that not even his bulk could gain him a 
place in the least football team of the lowest division of the Infer- 
nal League. There, where everyone plays, this spelt failure. Our 
fiend, whose name was Tazreel, collected about him one-and- 
twenty similar outcasts, and proposed that they should start a 
club between themselves. Their objection was, that he was too 
great a booby to be included, and that they had no ball. Let him 
supply the second deficiency, they said, and they would overlook 
the first. Nettled, he vowed to, and shambled off to the outer 
playing-fields in the hope of cadging an old one. He saw a cousin 
of his taking some practice shots with a battered Pope of the four- 
teenth century, horribly burst asunder at the seams. 

"Nick, Nick, what is that ball?" 

"Black Mass, Tazreel, why do you stare at him?" 

"Give him me. Give him me." 

"No." 



[208] After the Ball 



His cousin described a couple of turns about Tazreel, dribbling 
with tantalizing finesse. 

"Get one for yourself," he said. 

"I can't," cried Tazreel. "You know what sort of stuff they 
serve out nowadays. Machine-made muck that busts up at the 
second kick! I want one for a proper game. Give him me. Give him 
me." 

"No." And the cousin netted the pontifical pillule. 

"If you want a decent one," he said, "go and tempt a good 
quality on earth. Yes, go and tempt Mr. Dickinson," he added 
with a snigger, and scampered off after his game. 

At that moment, from an adjacent pitch, the bemuddied and 
leathern soul of Colonel Ingersoll hurtled through the air, and 
struck Tazreel a stinger on the ear. 

In his fury he sent the poor Colonel back in tremendous style. 

"I should be a fine player if I got a chance," he murmured, 
heartened by the success of his kick. "Damn itl I'll try for Dickin- 
son. I can but fail." 

This was madness. He told no one of what he was going to do, 
for fear of mockery, for in that place they talked of Dickinson's 
soul as office-boys do of a film-star: meat for their betters. 

However, he breached up through the surface of the earth, 
caught up the curate, disrobed him in mid-air, popped him through 
the bishop's bedroom window, and next moment was under the 
bed, waiting till Mr. Dickinson should reach down for his handker- 
chief before switching off the light and settling himself to sleep. 

Now he stood upon the hearth-rug, subserviently turning the 
round hat in his hands. 

"Who are you, and what do you want?" said Mr. Dickinson, 
very much in a flutter again when he saw how extremely bulky 
this apparent parson appeared. 

The fiend fell upon his knees with a supplicating gesture. 

"I want to make myself useful, sir," he mumbled. Mr. Dickin- 
son experienced a spasm of genuine revulsion. It must be, he 
thought, one of the unemployed, masquerading in a cast-off rig. 

"Why don't you work?" 

"It's like this, sir: I'm one of the fallen angels. Sir, I can prove 
it. Look," and whisking round, he slightly adjusted his costume, 



After the Ball [209] 



and displayed to our astonished hero the convincing evidence of 
his tail. 

"What's more, I'm repentant, sir," he continued, speaking, in 
his eagerness, out from between his knees. "Yes, I want to make 
good, to go straight in future. Oh boy! I want to be altogether 
changed. But how? 

" 'You go to Mr. Dickinson,' they told me. 'He's the only man 
who can show you the right path. Be his disciple, serve him, clean 
his boots, make him rich, any little thing. Take no wages, learn 
from him: he'll show you what a decent, clean, wholesome, manly 
life is,' they said." 

"Who said?" asked Mr. Dickinson. 

The fiend, with an expression of awe, jerked his thumb at the 
ceiling. 

"Indeed?" said Mr. Dickinson. "Did they?" 

"Yessir. They think a lot of you. 'He's wasted,' they said, 'in his 
manner of life. Go thou, extend his scope, and increase his good 
works. Make him famous, envied, admired. Make the ladies love 
him.' " 

"Oh!" said Mr. Dickinson. "I must think this over. I must go 
into it thoroughly." He tapped his teeth importantly. "If I decide 
to assist you," he said, "I'll let you know. Meanwhile I can't have 
you about this place. Er . . . begone. Hi! And meet me," he added, 
causing the fiend to reappear, more effectively than any servant 
who opens the door again to catch a last instruction, "and meet 
me on the Embankment by Battersea Bridge at seven to-morrow 
evening." 

With that the fiend vanished respectfully, and Mr. Dickinson 
lay all of a tremble, excited, timorous, and bewildered. 

It might be a trap. On the other hand, need he fear temptation? 
He desired nothing that was not respectable. But if the fiend spoke 
the truth, it might be a terrible responsibility, a nuisance. He 
thought of his landlady. But then, if those above had laid this task 
upon him, dared he refuse? Never shirk responsibility, that way 
lies promotion, the success booklet was firm on this point. Besides, 
the fellow might have powers: he might conjure him up a motor 
car. Yes, with such a helper he might do anything: become the 
xage at charity entertainments, a super-Maskelyne on the side of 



[210] After the Ball 



good. Why, he might enter sun-bathing establishments, and after 
a long homily to the ribald nude he might, at a single flourish, 
clothe them all in unremovable vests, permanent pants, non-dis- 
placeable knickers, everlasting suits, and eternal petticoats and 
gowns. His imagination soared, and he saw himself cleaning up the 
whole big city. The prospect was intoxicating. How he wished to- 
morrow evening was come: there were a hundred questions he 
longed to ask. 

He might, though, have dispensed quite easily with the interval, 
for Tazreel had withdrawn only from the sight. He had lingered on 
invisibly in the room to devour the recumbent Mr. Dickinson with 
a loving and a burning gaze. He sat, picking his devilish great dog- 
teeth, on the lower bed-rail. 

In the cold morning light, ordinariness crowded in, and our hero 
found his visions fade a little. They seemed fantastic, dangerous. 
Every step that he took towards his daily work inclined him more 
to shun such extravagant dreams, and continue to keep to his 
straight, if extremely narrow, path. 

"There's a catch in it somewhere," he said. 

Alas, Mr. Dickinson! A spark of ambition still smoldered in his 
breast, and as he entered the store, where it might have been 
quenched for ever, it prompted him to a little action which un- 
doubtedly changed the whole course of his life. 

As he made his way up the aisle of immodest figures, it chanced 
that one, portrayed by the modeller as in the act of bending to 
draw on a non-existent stocking, had been backed right into his 
path. 

"Outrageous!" cried Mr. Dickinson, thus roundly roused from 
his reverie. And transferring his newspaper into his left hand, he 
gave the shameless figure a well-deserved smack. But before that 
real thrill, which always follows on a good act, had had time to 
bathe him in its rosy glow, he saw with horror that he had been 
too rough, too much the cave man. The bending figure shook on 
its pedestal, and then, slowly, absurdly almost, toppled forward, 
and lay prone upon the floor, utterly still. 

"You clumsy fool," cried the deputy superintendent of bras- 
sieres and suspender belts, emerging from behind an outsize figure. 
"You've broken her nose." 



After the Ball [211] 



"I didn't break her nose," cried Mr. Dickinson. ("The floor did," 
he added to himself, for he was incapable of a lie.) 

"You did. I saw you." 

"I deny it." 

"In flagrante delicto." 

"In toto." 

"Don't touch her, anyone," shouted the deputy superintendent. 
"We'll have his finger-prints to prove it." 

A debate ensued, and everyone was against Mr. Dickinson. Miss 
Warble came forward and described the slap; Albert lift-boy, who 
had also witnessed it, serving as interpreter when occasion re- 
quired. 

"Ugh!" said Miss Warble. 

"Damn it, man!" said the manager, before them all, "I'd not 
have thought it of you. It's not the damage; that can, and shall, 
be made good out of your salary. But Wilfrid Dickinson a hypo- 
crite! This is a great blow to me. In future your books shall be 
specially checked. Who knows?" 

"Oh dear!" said Mr. Dickinson. 

"What's more, you shall be transferred to the ironmongery de- 
partment." 

"I resign," said Mr. Dickinson, bethinking himself of his power- 
ful disciple. 

"Resign, and be damned!" thundered the manager. 

A slight monitory tremor ran through our hero's veins at these 
words. It was lost, though, in other tremors, those of rage, shame, 
and resignation. He pouted, and withdrew. 

Misunderstood! So ran the current of his thoughts during the 
hours that followed. He wandered feverishly from tea-shop to 
tea-shop, finding forgetfulness in none. Just before five he was 
convulsed by a final spasm, and burst into a heavy perspiration. 

"I forgive them," he said. 

But, rage deserting him, he was still not at peace. 

"To have misunderstood?" So ran the current of his thoughts 
during the two hours before his appointment. Could his visitor 
have been the agent of a cruel joke? He remembered the great 
Thompkins hoax in the Baby-linen department in '27. A dastardly 
affair I 



[212] After the Ball 



"Duped!" he cried, arriving at the bridge five minutes too early, 
and finding no one awaiting him. "And I've thrown up my jobl 
My job! My job!" In reiteration the word became a mere meaning- 
less syllable. He could hardly believe that it connoted literally — 
his job. 

Soon, however, he saw the fiend approaching him, shambling 
along at a good pace, and pausing only to take an occasional kick 
at a stone. He was in a better fitting suit: he had in fact robbed 
another, and a gigantic, clergyman. 

"Late," said Mr. Dickinson pettishly, for his nerves were all 
on edge. 

With infinite respect the fiend displayed to him a superb gold 
watch, the hands of which exactly marked the hour. 

"Accept it, sir," he said. "I spent my last penny on it, as a slight 
mark of my affection and esteem. But pray, sir, may I venture to 
hope. . . ." 

"I have decided to give you a trial," said Mr. Dickinson, "pro- 
vided, that is, you ... ah, your powers are satisfactory. Show me 
some of your tricks. Change that match-box into a motor car." 

"I cannot transform objects," said Tazreel, "nor in any way run 
counter to the laws of nature. Only the big five can do that. But," 
he added, seeing Mr. Dickinson's look of disappointment, "I am 
strong, I am swift, I can be invisible, and I enjoy excellent luck 
at cards. This being so, you need not want for a motor car." 

"Honest work, and plenty of it, is certainly your best help in 
making good," said Mr. D. "Look to it that you use your powers 
well, and I will apply their fruits in a way that will be to your 
credit. What do you propose to do? I will not have you play cards. 
You say you are swift. Perhaps you could run for prizes in the 
sports." 

"There's not much to be made that way," said the fiend. "If 
only another of us had repented along of me, we could have gone 
as front and back legs of a Derby winner." 

"No racing," said Mr. Dickinson sternly. "Perhaps you could 
put your strength to good use. A super-navvy on piecework, 
eh?" 

"The Union would crush me," replied the fiend. "I might box." 

"A manly sport," cried Mr. Dickinson, feeling his muscle. "You 
shall become world's champion, and I will be your manager. Thus 



After the Ball [213] 



we will get money for good works, for the fact is, I am leaving my 
present situation in order to devote myself to the administrative 
side." 

"I was there when the row was on," said the fiend. 

"Then you saw how I was treated." 

"They certainly did you dirt. Say, let's muscle in in the morning 
and clean that joint right up. Yeah?" 

"No," said Mr. Dickinson. "I have forgiven them. However, I 
might go in and try to make them see their vileness. You could be 
at hand to stay any attempt at brutal violence. I trust there will 
be none." 

The fiend eyed his quarry in grudging admiration. He began to 
appreciate his quality. 

"It'll be a bit of practice," he said, "if I'm to start in as a pug." 

"Streuth," he added, "I've just remembered I had a bit on the 
three-thirty. Filly came in, too. 'Scuse me, boss, I'll nip off and 
collar the polony. Then we'll have some eats." 

"No," said Mr. Dickinson, "I have forbidden you horse-racing. 
But stay — this was done before you heard my command. Perhaps 
the money should not be allowed to rest in the hands of the book- 
maker, or the unhappy man may get drunk and beat his wife. 
That must be prevented at all costs. Go then, this once, and we 
will break bread, and devote the rest to good works. Out of evil 
cometh forth good! How much is it?" 

"I stand to net five hundred," said the fiend. 

"Good heavens! That will furnish our headquarters. Go then. 
We will meet outside the Trocadero and take a frugal meal at the 
nearest restaurant." 

It was a pleasant meal. Mr. Dickinson had oysters, to keep his 
strength up for his future toil; turtle soup that he might know 
what it was the Lord Mayor ate, and if it would be good for the 
poor; a little turbot, and some Pol Roger, to which he made a 
Canaean allusion; a grouse, for he had heard St. Francis was fond 
of birds; a peach, just to taste one, and a little Bisquit du Bouchet 
for his cold. The fiend had a whiting and a plate of cold beef or- 
dered for him by his master, and, it must be admitted, a little 
page-boy to whom he helped himself during a temporary with- 
drawal. 

They discussed their plans. Next day a suitable suite for their 



[214] After the Ball 



headquarters was to be chosen, something very simple though of 
a good address, furnished more like a home than an office, but with 
a roll-top desk in it. 

"I know the very place," said Tazreel: "it's just a modest sort 
of flatette in Park Lane." 

"Let it have a kitchenette for you to work in," said his master, 
"and a miniature gymnasium for my exercises and your profes- 
sional training. A little drawing-room, bijou dining-room, morn- 
ing-room and that sort of thing for the necessary entertainment of 
distinguished visitors, a tiny library for myself, the barest sleep- 
ing accommodation, and if possible a weeny swimming-bath for 
the encouragement of the suitably begarbed in pursuit of clean- 
liness and health." 

"Just the place I had in mind," said the fiend. "And at a rental 
of only two hundred a week." 

"Can you earn proportionately?" asked Mr. Dickinson, rather 
shocked. 

"Sure thing!" was the reply. 

"You may have some cheese if you like," said Mr. Dickinson. 

Next morning they went early to the store, when Mr. Dickinson 
rebuked his oppressors, who were, when they advanced to make 
a savage attack on him, invisibly but severely restrained. 

"Pick up that figure," said Mr. Dickinson, when they had fled 
in pain and terror. He pointed to the disgraceful mannequin, who, 
with her nose restored, still bent to tug the non-existent hose. "I 
will have her in my room, where she will no longer lead people 
astray. She will be a constant urge to effort." 

Hastily clothing the figure in a cheap tailor-made, for which Mr. 
Dickinson commanded his follower to leave the wholesale price on 
the counter, they took it by the elbow and bore it off to a taxi, thus 
presenting to the inquisitive crowd all the appearance of detectives 
arresting a recalcitrant shoplifter. 

Noonday found them installed in Park Lane. Mr. Dickinson 
outlined to the fiend a routine of scrubbing and sweeping, waiting 
at table, admitting visitors, tending the wardrobe, and acting as 
secretary-chauffeur. He described exactly how he liked his break- 
fast prepared. These little matters, he said, combined with the 
practice and execution of a career as boxer, and with attendance 
on himself when he went to rebuke the wicked, would keep Tazreel 



After the Ball [215] 



busy, and this would be half the battle toward regeneration. The 
fiend sighed a little. He was brisk when put to it, but he was devil- 
ishly lazy by nature, and when he contemplated, in addition to 
all these tasks, the yet harder one of tempting his master, he almost 
wished himself back on the desolate touch-lines of Hell. 

However, he set to, and by laboring twenty-two hours out of 
the twenty-four he managed to keep abreast of his duties. He was 
greatly chagrined to find, though, when he entered on his pugilistic 
programme, that the science of our British heavyweights was such 
that not all his strength could bring him victory without a prelim- 
inary tattoo of rabbit punches, nobs on the smelling bottle, rousers 
on the cigar-trap, and cruel fibs in the bread basket. His claret was 
tapped, shutters put up, ears thickened, grinders made to rock in 
their sockets. Not only that, but, lest his tail should betray his 
shameful origin when he was stripped for combat, Mr. Dickinson 
insisted that he should be docked, and performed the operation 
himself with a pair of garden shears, notched for branch cutting. 

Altogether his lot was a miserable one. The worst of it was, that 
as the months dragged by, Mr. Dickinson showed no signs of com- 
mitting mortal sin within the meaning of the Act. 

Sometimes, when he stood, with folded arms and reproachful, 
penetrating gaze, on the threshold of a sun-bathing establishment 
or night club, his sinister bodyguard would jerk a suggestive thumb 
at some particularly shameless sylph or piquante dancer on a table, 
and twitch meanwhile the corner of his mouth violently towards 
his eye. A stern rebuke would immediately bring him to his senses. 

He went to great trouble to introduce Mr. Dickinson into the 
society of millionaires, that he might become covetous and mis- 
appropriate the subscriptions that poured in. His master, return- 
ing from a Babylonic week-end, told him that he had arranged 
a slapstick part for him on the films, the salary of which was com- 
mensurate with the incredible sufferings and exertions required. 

He introduced a vile book into the covers of Mr. Dickinson's 
Black Sheep Turned White. Mr. Dickinson told him to glance 
through each new novel that came out, and to bring to him any- 
thing similarly deserving of his public censure. 

The fiend, hoping to scare him into a murderous panic, sent him 
letters, apparently signed by a prominent fellow committee-man, 
and declaring that he (the fiend) was in reality a notorious dancer 



[216] After the Ball 



named Lola de Montmorency, who had disappeared in unsavory 
circumstances some time ago, now masquerading in male attire. 
Exposure was threatened. "This must be the work of some prac- 
tical joker," said Mr. Dickinson, glancing gravely at the super- 
masculine countenance of his unattractive factotum. 

That worthy then tried to persuade him to enter politics. Mr. 
Dickinson pointed out that politicians were frequently compelled 
to tell lies. 

He described, in glowing terms, the pleasures of eastern mon- 
archs. His master cut down his diet. 

He earnestly sought the good man to consider enlarging his 
influence by becoming King Wilfrid I. Mr. Dickinson pondered 
the matter carefully, sighed, and said he feared the throne could 
hardly become his by immaculate means. However, he instructed 
the fiend to put in his spare time speaking at street corners on the 
off-chance of bringing about a bloodless revolution. 

The fiend, then, as if he had become raving mad, staggered in 
with baskets of jewels which he said he had found; raised up Helen, 
Cleopatra, all that lot; discoursed on witchcraft; transported the 
good man to tops of mountains overlooking fine landscapes; sat up 
in adjacent flats during his two hours' rest, pinching the babies to 
make them cry; tried to scrape up an acquaintance for his master 
among artists; wrote "Arise, Dickinson, first Emperor of the 
World!" in phosphorus on his ceiling, and finally introduced him 
to Mrs. Walker. All was of no avail. 

Poor Tazreel grew as lean as a cat. He no longer took light- 
hearted kicks at stones that lay in his path: he no longer sang at 
his scrubbing and sweeping. He was a victim of overwork, nervous 
depression, insomnia, fits of giddiness, spots before the eyes, back- 
ache, bile, utter fatigue. 

One day, as he was polishing Mr. Dickinson's brass-plate on the 
front railings, a party of happier fiends passed by, who were doing 
themselves well at the Dorchester, from which they were organi- 
zing a mass temptation of the Y.M.C.A. They saw Tazreel, and 
gave each other the nudge. Peals of laughter floated back from this 
party of well-fed, easy-living, successful executives, and seared the 
taut nerves of the poor plodding failure on the steps. 

The fiend, hysterical with rage, rushed upstairs and broke the 
waxen trophy in the bedroom. 



After the Ball [217] 



"You clumsy fool," said Mr. Dickinson, entering upon the crash. 
'However, I forgive you. I'll get a stenographer." 

"Your spelling is atrocious," he added. 

"Your typing is slow. 

"Your shorthand non-existent. 

"It will give you time to get a weight-lifting job at one of the 
lalls." 

Tazreel, at this last sentence, uttered a bitter cry. He felt the 
ystem was blind, corrupt, utterly rotten, that allowed a man to 
nislead a poor fiend into the hope of an hour or two's leisure, and 
hen to sentence him to new toils, without incurring immediate 
md eternal damnation. He began to feel that he never would be 
ible to entrap Mr. Dickinson. There was no one to encourage him, 
to one to advise, to sympathize, to care. That night the poor fel- 
ow cried himself to sleep. 

Two days later Maisie Williams sat at the old-fashioned type- 
writer near the big roll-top desk. She was just a mere slip of a 
hing, with big, almost frightened, blue eyes that darkened nearly 
o black in moments of excitement. Maisie had had a hard time. 
)he was alone in the world, and the manager at her last place had 
>een a beast. It was with a sigh of real thankfulness that she sank 
rito the pleasant atmosphere of the little library in Park Lane, 
where a restful sense of luxury and beauty, for which her starved 
oul craved, filled the air, and her employer seemed a regular simp. 

That day Mr. Dickinson dictated an unusual number of letters. 
Fea was served in the oak-panelled, book-lined room. Maisie could 
iot repress a tiny girlish squeal of delight when she saw the de- 
icious petits fours which accompanied the fragrant tea-pot. 

"What a child you are!" said Mr. Dickinson kindly. "To squeal 
ike that over a few cakes. My! What a noise you'd make if some- 
>ne offered you a pearl necklace. It would be deafening." 

"Not if it was a relation or a fiance," said Maisie simply. "But 
r ou must not think me a child, Mr. Dickinson, for the fact is I very 
eldom see any cakes. But really I seem to have been grown up 
ver since I can remember: I've not had any proper childhood at 
II, I mean. You see, my dear mother died when I was twelve. . . ." 
Jut Maisie could not go on. She sat bravely blinking back the 
ears from those big eyes, that seemed to have grown very helpless 
nd very serious, and bright, and appealing, and wistful, and so on. 



[218] After the Ball 



"That's all right. That's all right," said Mr. Dickinson benevo 
lently. 

"It's so kind of you, Mr. Dickinson, to let me tell you all this. 

"That's all right," said Mr. Dickinson. "Perhaps I am rather | 
lonely person myself." 

"I say, Mr. Butler, the boss is a pretty rich man, isn't he?" sai< 
Maisie to Tazreel later on, when Mr. Dickinson had gone off h 
his meeting. 

"Yes'm, he sho is," replied that worthy, pretending to be 
negro. 

Maisie sat silent, thrilled. What a strange world it was, wher 
a great big rich man could be lonely, just like her little insignifican 
self. It seemed incredible: too good to be true. She thought of th 
lion and the mouse. 

Yet before a week had passed, Mr. Dickinson, as though th 
species had become mixed, was calling her "kitten." 

In a fortnight they were engaged. 

Tazreel, when he heard the news, retired to his room, and dashet 
his head several times against the wall. He was upset. Not beinj 
a fiend of foresight, he saw nothing in this arrangement but th 
prospect of two bosses instead of one. Besides, he was rather keei 
on her himself. He felt utterly broken, and determined to resign 

But as he approached the drawing-room door, he heard Maisi 
say, in her high, clear, girlish voice, into which (so adaptable wa 
she) there was already creeping a little of the authoritative torn 
inevitable to her future high position: 

"Wilf, when we're wed there's just one teeny little change 
want to make, apart from refurnishing and taking over the res 
of the house." 

"My little Maisy-waisy shall never ask twice," replied the im 
passioned Dickinson, "for anything that her Wilfywumkin cai 
give her." 

"I want you to have a proper staff of servants," said Maisie 
"and shunt that tough-looking batman of yours right off the prem 
ises. He looks at me in a way I don't like." 

"I'll break every bone in his body," cried Mr. Dickinson warmly 
"But yet — I think you must be mistaken, dear. He works for nexi 
to no wages, and he's the most useful creature imaginable." 

"If that's what you call love," said Maisie in a disappointec 



After the Ball [219] 



tone, "It's not what I do. Just like men: you promise a girl any- 
thing just to get your way, and then let her down. I was only 
testing you, but, thank goodness, I've found out in time." 

"Not at all, my love," said Mr. Dickinson hastily. "I was only 
playing. He shall go tomorrow." 

"And where will the money come from then?" murmured the 
listening fiend, catching cries of "Yum! yum!" and "Oh, honey!" 
from within. He crept back to his little cubby-hole feeling faintly 
cheered. At all events, there would be no more washing-up. 

"In future," said Mr. D. to him next morning, "you are excused 
all domestic duties. In fact, I don't expect you to be seen here at 
all. If you come, appear to me only when I'm quite alone; do you 
understand?" 

"O.K., chief," replied the fiend. 

"That doesn't mean you're to be idle. On the contrary, you must 
exert your earning powers to the utmost. The future Mrs. D. needs 
beauty, she says. It would be downright selfishness to continue to 
live in the frugal style of a hermit. So you'd better get some more 
big contracts as soon as you can." 

The honeymoon passed like a dream. Tazreel enjoyed it only 
less than Mr. Dickinson. Left behind in London with nothing to at- 
tend to but occasional cables demanding money, he neglected his 
contracts, lived the life of a man about town, and replenished the 
exchequer in a way that would have shocked his worthy master. 

It was a great day when the domestics crowded into the hall 
of Mr. Dickinson's little palace in Park Lane to welcome their 
blushing master and his bride. Tazreel sat invisibly on the stairs, 
pleased to see the glowing looks which the happy husband lavished 
on his spouse, and still more pleased to see that two short months 
in Venice had changed the modest, self-effacing typist into a great 
lady, in no way unfitted to grace the mansion her adoring partner 
had prepared for her. 

"Why, Wilf," she cried, "this hall looks cramped to me after the 
Splendide. Can't you widen it somehow? I don't want Society to 
say I squeeze it to death." 

"It would mean taking the house next door, to make this hall 
any wider," said Mr. Dickinson with a smile. 

"Well, take it then," replied his consort, who was a little frayed 



[220] After the Ball 



by the journey. "You're a man, aren't you? Or aren't you? You 
got to prove it some way, you know." 

"Ssh, my dear," murmured her consort. "The servants will hear 
you." And he ushered her into the principal drawing-room, from 
whence the sounds of billing and cooing floated out to the fiend's 
enraptured ear. 

"You must earn fifty thousand before the end of the month," 
said Mr. Dickinson to him, at their next interview. 

"I'll try, boss," he replied. "But money's not so easy in these 
days. Still, I think I know a way." 

"What's that?" said Mr. Dickinson. "But spare me the details. 
We've a great deal of work to discuss. The organization will have 
to be modified." 

A little while later he summoned the fiend again. 
"What was that I asked you for, before the end of the month?" 
"Fifty thousand," said Tazreel. 

"What, only that? I must be losing my memory. I shall need a 
hundred and fifty at the least. Be sure you don't let me down." 
"I doubt I can come by it honestly," said Tazreel, pulling a 
long face. 

"What's that?" cried his master. "You, an ex-fiend, to talk to 
me in that way! I hope you do not think I would command you to 
do anything dishonest. Get it, I say, and don't let me hear an- 
other word about it. Put the money on my table next week with- 
out fail, or I cast you off, and back you go to Hell for ever." 

Tazreel asked nothing much better than this, provided he could 
only take Mr. Dickinson with him. He half thought of getting him 
to compromise himself over the money, but feared he might slip 
off the hook; besides, theft by proxy is a matter for trial, and 
the field wanted immediate possession of his booty. 

He saw, in his invisible visits to their menage, that Mrs. Dickin- 
son, though in all other respects the worthiest young woman in 
the world, had been starved of beauty so long that her appetite 
for it was tremendous. She was also a little ambitious to cut a 
figure among the smart set, and showed signs of not being so pas- 
sionately enamored of her husband as he was of her. 

In short, the besotted wretch was constantly bothering Tazreel 
for money, and no longer showing any interest in how it was come 
by. The fortunate devil, now restored to cheerfulness, did no work 



After the Ball [221] 



except a few cracksman's jobs, which were child's play, and, keep- 
ing half the proceeds for himself, you may be sure he had a jolly 
little bachelor establishment round the corner in Mount Street, 
played pranks all over the town, and heartily commiserated his 
fellows at the Dorchester on the embarrassment they must feel on 
being seen with their young victims in public. 

"I married mine off six months ago," he said. "He is already 
in debt to the tune of a half a million, and soon will sign his name 
to anything for further supplies. That's nothing, however: wait 
till he becomes jealous. My only trouble then will be to prevent 
him damning himself so completely off his own bat as to be put up 
for raffle, it being said that I had no hand in it. Fear nothing, 
though; I shall be watchful to prevent that disaster." 

As a matter of fact, Mr. Dickinson very soon paid a visit to the 
fiend's snug little place in Mount Street. He was so broken down 
by love and his wife's tantrums that he no longer summoned him 
as before, but would ring at his door quite humbly after dinner, 
and ask the butler if Mr. Tazreel could possibly spare him a few 
minutes on a matter of importance. Generally it was money he 
was wanting: this time, after a good deal of beating about the 
bush, he asked Tazreel if he could do anything for him in the way 
of a love philter. 

"What?" cried the fiend, pretending astonishment. "Do you 
find yourself insufficiently enraptured by such beauty, charm, 
and talent as your wife has, that you'd resort to such means of 
being awakened to it?" 

"No, indeed," said the poor fellow. "Her virtues are plain 
enough, but so also is the fact that she is a little impatient when 
I fail to come up to the high standard her fine taste demands. In 
short, I would have her a little more in love with me, that she 
might overlook my blemishes, without my having to gild them to 
the ruinous extent I do. Besides, if I don't become more attractive 
in her eyes, I can't help feeling (it's probably only my fancy) that 
I may find an intruder in the house: a home- wrecker, I mean." 

The fiend, though knowing perfectly well there had been one 
of that sort hanging about for the last month, chose not to men- 
tion it, nor did he give him any sort of warning, but only the 
philter: the consequence was, that in a very short time there was 
not one home-wrecker in Park Lane, but at least ten. 



[222] After the Ball 



When there are ten, a suspicious, prying husband, such as Mr. 
Dickinson had become, generally gets wind of one of them sooner 
or later. One night the unhappy man broke in upon the fiend's 
ease: he was in a terrible state. 

"Ask me no questions," he said, "but tell me, have you any- 
thing that will undo the effects of that cursed love philter you 
gave me? It's all because of that, I'm sure." 

"Love," replied the fiend, "is, as you yourself should know, a 
very tricky passion. In cases like your wife's, what lies in the 
power of any poor devil to arouse, is often such as the Prince of 
Darkness himself could not quell. I fear, my dear Dickinson, that 
we shall have to resort to * witchcraft.' " 

"Heaven forbid!" cried the distracted wretch, piteously. 

"Why, as to that, it does," replied the sardonic fiend. 

"All I want is something in a bottle," moaned his victim. 

"Come, Dickinson," said the fiend, with an abominable brisk- 
ness, "it's time to be honest with yourself, to play the man. You 
can't just accept my help and shut your eyes to the measures I 
have to take on your behalf, as you've been doing over money 
matters, for example, for the last six months." 

"What? Do you mean to say the money was not come by hon- 
estly?" cried the poor fool, in affright. "Good gracious, and I 
needed another forty thousand this very evening. I must have it, 
too. Maisie says she must have a tiara: she finds the place 
draughty." 

"Tell her to get it from young what's-his-name," was the sly 
answer. 

"Don't madden me." 

"Well, here's the money. It came from a late bank messenger, 
who is getting later every minute, and who will never arrive. Take 
it. All the rest was come by in much the same way. This little bit 
won't make any difference." 

"After all, it's not for a selfish motive," murmured Mr. Dickin- 
son. "I can't have Maisie getting a cold in the head, can I?" 

"No," said the fiend, with a smile. 

"Now about this witchcraft," he continued. "You'd better make 
up your mind quickly. Every minute you hesitate, you're leaving 
your wife alone. And, as you know, she's very highly strung." 

"Oh dear, what have I to do?" 



After the Ball [223] 



"Oh, just kill a white goat. That's nothing. Butchers do it every 
day. And gabble a few words after me. What's there in that, eh?" 

"After all, I can always repent," said Mr. Dickinson tremu- 
lously. 

"Yes . . . always," said the fiend. 

He gave Mr. Dickinson a stiff brandy and soda, and excused 
himself for a moment, to fetch the goat, he said. Actually, he took 
advantage of his withdrawal to telephone to Park Lane, to say 
that Mr. Dickinson was unexpectedly detained and could not re- 
turn before morning. 

He then went back, leading in a poor old nanny, whom his dupe 
despatched amid a positive blaze of Bengal Lights, provided gratis 
by the fiend. After an hour or two spent in such jiggery-pokery, 
our hero found himself in possession of a phial which contained no 
less than half a gill of tap water. 

"Now, I suppose, I'm what you might call a lost soul," he said, 
trembling like a blancmange. 

"/ wouldn't call you such," said the fiend. 

"No, of course I can repent." 

"You'd better wait till you've administered that," remarked 
Tazreel, indicating the phial. "Or it would be as useless as tap 
water." 

"All right, I don't repent then. He! he!" 

"Spoken like a man! I'll stroll round with you. Here! Take the 
knife as a little memento." 

They walked round in silence through the pleasant night air. 
When they reached Mr. Dickinson's door: 

"I'll just come in and have a drink," said Tazreel. 

"Better not, old chap. Maisie doesn't appreciate you." 

"Oh, don't worry about the missus. She's in bed. See, there's no 
lights at all down below." 

They entered the hall. 

"Nice hat," said the fiend carelessly, picking up a topper from 
the table. "Yours?" 

". . . NO." 

"Why, that's certainly the low-down," said the fiend, Capone- 
ishly. "Just while you were jeopardizing your soul for her sake — 
yeah?" 

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" 



[224] After the Ball 



"Dickinson, show yourself a man," said the fiend sternly. "You 
are a man, aren't you? Or aren't you?" He imitated Maisie's voice 
to perfection. 

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" 

"You got that knife," shouted the fiend fiendishly. "Come on! 
I'll hold 'em down." 

They rushed up the stairs. Mr. Dickinson applied his ear to the 
door; the fiend silently opened the door of the lift shaft. They 
burst into the bedroom; there were screams, and the deed was 
done. Mr. Dickinson, with a cry of horror, flung down the fatal 
blade and turned and bolted out of the room. The fiend followed, 
tripped him up on the landing, stooped like a hawk after his fall- 
ing body as he toppled down the lift shaft, nabbed his soul as it 
popped out, and, with one tremendous kick, landed it favorably 
into the line-up of Tazreel's United, and in a moment the game 
was in full swing. 



HELL 

HATH NO 

FURY 



jHWSjj!^^ HELL HA TH NO FUR Y ^^S^ 



AS SOON AS EINSTEIN DECLARED THAT SPACE WAS FINITE, THE PRICE 

of building sites, both in Heaven and Hell, soared outrageously. A 
number of petty fiends who had been living in snug squalor in the 
remoter infernal provinces, found themselves evicted from their 
sorry slacks, and had not the wherewithal to buy fresh plots at 
the new prices. There was nothing for it but to emigrate: they 
scattered themselves over the various habitable planets of our 
universe; one of them arrived in London at about the hour of 
midnight in the October of last year. 

Some angels in like case took similar measures, and by a coinci- 
dence one of them descended at the same hour into the same north- 
ern suburb. 

Beings of this order, when they take on the appearance of hu- 
mans, have the privilege of assuming whichever sex they choose. 
Things being as they are, and both angels and devils knowing very 
well what's what, both of them decided to become young women 
of about the age of twenty-one. The fiend, as soon as he touched 
earth, was no other than Bella Kimberly, a brunette, and the angel 
became the equally beautiful Eva Anderson, a blonde. 

By the essential limitation of their natures, it is impossible for 
an angel to recognize fiendishness on beholding it, and equally so 
for a fiend even to conceive the existence of angelic virtue. As a 
matter of fact, at such a meeting as now took place in Lowndes 
Crescent, St. John's Wood, the angel is innocently attracted by 
what seems to her the superior strength and intensity of the 
fiendish nature, while the devil experiences that delicious interest 
that one feels in a lamb cutlet odorous upon the grill. 

The two girls accosted one another, and each asked if the other 
knew of a suitable lodging-house in the neighborhood. The simi- 
larity of their need caused them first to laugh heartily, and then 
to agree to become room-mates and companions of fortune. Bella 
suggested that it was perhaps too late to make respectable appli- 
cation for a lodging, therefore they spent the night strolling on 
Hampstead Heath, talking of how they would earn their livings, 
and of what fun they would have together, and of love, and then 
of breakfast, which is not an unnatural sequel. 

[226] 



Hell Hath No Fury [227] 

They had some poached eggs in the little Express Dairy in 
Heath Street, and afterwards found a pleasant room on the third 
floor of an apartment house in Upper Park Road. Then they went 
out in search of employment: Bella was soon taken on as a danc- 
ing instructress, and Eva, with a little more difficulty, secured a 
situation as harpist in a cinema orchestra. 

One they were settled thus, they began to enjoy themselves as 
girls do, chattering and giggling at all hours. It is true that some of 
the things Bella said made Eva blush from the crown of her head 
to the soles of her feet, but she already loved her dark friend, and 
found her daring humor quite irresistible. They made amicable 
division of the chest of drawers, and shared the same bed, which 
no one thought was extraordinary, nor would if they had known 
them in their true characters, for nothing is more common than to 
find a fiend and an angel between the same pair of sheets, and if 
it was otherwise life would be hellishly dull for some of us. 

Now there was living in this apartment house a young man 
scarcely older than Bella and Eva, who was studying to become 
an architect, and who had never known love, nor been put off for 
long by any imitation. His name was Harry Pettigrew, and his 
hair was a very medium color, neither too dark nor too fair. 

His means were very limited, and his room was on the topmost 
floor, but not so far above that inhabited by the two girls but he 
could hear their delicious giggling at that still hour when he should 
have been at his latest studies. He longed to go down and tap at 
their door and ask them what the joke was, but he was too shy. 

However, when three such young people are in the same house, 
it is not long before they become acquainted: on one occasion 
Bella forgot to lock the bathroom door, and the reason for this 
must have been that in Hell there are no baths, and hence no 
bathrooms, and consequently no bathroom doors. 

It was a Sunday; the young man himself was descending in a 
dressing-gown: there was a delicious little contretemps, in which, 
fortunately, he saw no more than any decent young man would 
wish to see. All the same, he retreated in great confusion, for he 
had no notion of the wishes of decent young women. His confu- 
sion was so extreme, that he counted neither stairs nor landings 
in ascending, and, flinging open a door which he took to be his 
own, he discovered Eva in the third position of Muller's exercise 
for the abdominal muscles, and in nothing else at all. 



[228] Hell Hath No Fury 

Now angels, as every man knows, are, by virtue of their very 
innocence, or the simplicity of the celestial costume, sometimes 
far less conventionally modest than the squeakers of the darker 
sisterhood. Eva hastily but without panic threw a wrap about her 
shoulders: "You look quite upset," she said. "There is no reason 
to be upset. Did you want anything?" 

"No . . " he said, "... I did not. In fact I came in by mis- 
take. It is nice of you not to scream or be angry with me." 

They exchanged one or two more little civilities. In the end, 
Harry was emboldened to suggest a walk on the Heath. Before 
Eva could reply, Bella entered, and, not seeing him there, she 
burst out, with a giggle, "Whatever do you think happened to 
me?" Then, catching sight of him, she subsided into a confusion 
doubly arch. 

This took off a little from the exquisite naturalness of the other 
encounter, a service for which Harry was not as grateful as he 
might have been, had he known to what a quarter, and from 
what a quarter, his fancy was being inclined. The truth is, that 
where a fiend and an angel, both in female form, are seen by the 
same young man, in precisely the same illuminating circumstances, 
he will, fifty or fifty-five times out of a hundred, choose the angel, 
if he is a nice young man, and if he has time enough. 

Therefore, when they were all three on Hampstead Heath that 
afternoon, Harry addressed Bella with very pleasant words, but 
with words only, while to Eva he accorded certain looks as well. 

Bella was not very slow at putting two and two together. She 
had been looking forward to a long period of mortal sin with this 
attractive young man, and to flying off with his soul afterwards. 
The soul of an architect, especially if he is of strong Palladian 
tendencies, is well worth a handsome villa, standing in two or 
three acres of well-laid-out grounds, in the most desirable resi- 
dential quarter of Hell. You imagine this homeless fiend's mor- 
tification, against which could have been measured the fury 
of the woman scorned, since they were here resident in the same 
anatomy. 

She saw every day that Harry was growing fonder of her blonde 
companion, and conceived the idea of adding a fourth to their 
party, in the shape of a young man nearly as swarthy as herself, 
whom she had met at the dancing-hall, and with whom she was 
already quite sufficiently familiar. 



Hell Hath No Fury [229] 

She represented to him that Eva was likely to inherit a large 
sum of money. This, and her blonde locks and guileless air, were 
quite enough for Master Dago, and all he asked was opportunity 
to come at her. 

"It's no good just trying to do the sheik," said Bella, "for she's 
already soft and soppy on Harry Pettigrew, who should be my 
boy friend by rights. What you want, is to give him the idea she 
lets you: that'll make him sheer off quick enough, if I know his 
lordship." It will be observed that Bella's speech was vulgar in 
the extreme: this is a very usual deficiency of fiends. 

Her dancing-partner, whom she had made well acquainted with 
the stings of jealousy, soon found means to introduce them to 
Harry. For example, on one Sunday when they were all walking 
in the sylvan shades of Ken Wood, he had Bella fall behind with 
Harry on some pretext or other, and when he and Eva had gone 
ahead a turn or two of the winding pathway, he put his arm be- 
hind her, without touching her in the least (or he would have had 
a severe rebuke) , but so that it should appear to Harry, when he 
rounded the bend, that his hastily withdrawn arm had been about 
her consenting waist. 

Not only this, but he once or twice made a sudden movement, 
and appeared flustered, when Harry entered a room in which he 
and Eva had been left alone by his accomplice. He was not above 
making, when he heard his rival's step outside the door, a little 
kissing sound with his perjured lips. On one occasion, when Bella 
was away for the week-end, he went so far as to throw a sock in 
at Eva's window. 

Here he overreached himself. Harry, returning with Eva from 
a walk, was so overcome by the sight of this sock that he could no 
longer suffer in silence, but, first of all asking (as it were care- 
lessly) whose sock that could be, he soon burst out with all the 
accumulated suspicions of the past few weeks, and had the in- 
finite pleasure of hearing them denied frankly, emphatically, un- 
mistakably and, above all, angelically. 

A pretty little scene ensued, in which they discovered that their 
love partook of the nature of perfection. In fact, the only at- 
tribute that was wanting was completeness, which is recognized 
as being an essential by many of the ancient philosophers, several 
of the fathers of the Church, and by all young lovers. It is the na- 
ture of men to strive after perfection, and of angels to attain it: 



[2S0] Hell Hath No Fury 

our young pair were true to type, and, after a little amicable dis- 
cussion, it was agreed that they should endeavor to realize per- 
fection in Eva's room that very night, when all the house was 
asleep. If perfection itself is insufficient for the censorious, such 
are reminded that in Heaven there is no marrying or giving in 
marriage, and among architectural students very little. 

Now it so happened that Bella had returned that very after- 
noon, and had gone into conference with her accomplice to devise 
some bold stroke by which they might each achieve their impa- 
tient ends. At last they agreed on the boldest of all: Bella that 
very night was to visit Harry in his bedroom, and the swarthy 
dancing-man was to play the Tarquin in Eva's. 

That night, at about the middle hour, they repaired to Hamp- 
stead. It was as black as pitch, no moon, a mist over the stars; no 
lights in the lodgers' rooms, for they were all asleep; no light in 
Harry's, because he was not there; no light in Eva's, because he 
was. 

Bella, not knowing this, goes up to the top, finds him absent, 
and gets into his bed by way of a little surprise for him when he 
returns. 

The dancing-man, making his entry a little later, gropes his way 
up the stairs, and, stopping at Eva's door, hears a murmuring 
within, which is in fact our young pair expressing to one another 
their great admiration of the perfection of perfection. He con- 
cludes he is a flight too low, goes higher, opens the door of Harry's 
room, and, all in the dark, seizes upon the waiting Bella, who, in 
high delight at his enthusiasm, lets down a losing battle in a very 
convincing way. 

Several hours passed, in which the good enjoyed that happiness 
which is the reward of virtue, and the wicked that illusion of it 
that is the consolation of vice. 

In the first grey of dawn, our good Harry made a very pretty 
speech of thanks to his charmer, in which he told her that she was 
an angel and had transported him to Heaven itself. 

Bella and her companion, on the other hand, damned one an- 
other with more heat than grace. They were sufficiently realistic, 
however, to agree that a good illusion is better than nothing at 
all, and they resolved to perpetuate their error by seeking it in an 
eternity of darknesses, but at this, I believe, they were not par- 
ticularly successful. 



mjim!tmjt©imtt"i|im(i»i|imiiitftimiittfi»iii|imimt|int|tiii|tiit(imit"timi|iwi,!Mi 



GREEN 
THOUGHTS 



!!K!JK!J!^^ GREEN THOUGHTS ^)^^^^ 



"Annihilating all that's made 
To a green thought in a green shade" 

Marvell. 

the orchid had been sent among the effects of his friend, 
who had come by a lonely and mysterious death on the expedi- 
tion. Or he had bought it among a miscellaneous lot, "unclassi- 
fied," at the close of the auction. I forget which, but one or the 
other it certainly was; moreover, even in its dry, brown, dormant 
root state, this orchid had a certain sinister quality. It looked, 
with its bunched and ragged projections, like a rigid yet a grip- 
ping hand, hideously gnarled, or a grotesquely whiskered, threat- 
ening face. Would you not have known what sort of an orchid it 
was? 

Mr. Mannering did not know. He read nothing but catalogues 
and books on fertilizers. He unpacked the new acquisition with a 
solicitude absurd enough in any case toward any orchid, or prim- 
rose either, in the twentieth century, but idiotic, foolhardy, doom- 
eager, when extended to an orchid thus come by, in appearance 
thus. And in his traditional obtuseness he at once planted it in 
what he called the "Observation Ward," a hothouse built against 
the south wall of his dumpy red dwelling. Here he set always the 
most interesting additions to his collection, and especially weak 
and sickly plants, for there was a glass door in his study wall 
through which he could see into this hothouse, so that the weak 
and sickly plants could encounter no crisis without his immediate 
knowledge and his tender care. 

This plant, however, proved hardy enough. At the ends of thick 
and stringy stalks it opened out bunches of darkly shining leaves, 
and soon it spread in every direction, usurping so much space that 
first one, then another, then all its neighbors had to be removed 
to a hothouse at the end of the garden. It was, Cousin Jane said, 

[232] 



Green Thoughts [233] 



a regular hop-vine. At the ends of the stalks, just before the leaves 
began, were set groups of tendrils, which hung idly, serving no 
apparent purpose. Mr. Mannering thought that very probably 
these were vestigial organs, a heritage from some period when the 
plant had been a climber. But when were the vestigial tendrils of 
an ex-climber half or quarter so thick and strong? 

After a long time sets of tiny buds appeared here and there 
among the extravagant foliage. Soon they opened into small 
flowers, miserable little things: they looked like flies' heads. One 
naturally expects a large, garish, sinister bloom, like a sea ane- 
mone, or a Chinese lantern, or a hippopotamus yawning, on any 
important orchid; and should it be an unclassified one as well, I 
think one has every right to insist on a sickly and overpowering 
scent into the bargain. 

Mr. Mannering did not mind at all. Indeed, apart from his joy 
and happiness in being the discoverer and godfather of a new sort 
of orchid, he felt only a mild and scientific interest in the fact that 
the paltry blossoms were so very much like flies' heads. Could it 
be to attract other flies for food or as fertilizers? But then, why 
like their heads? 

It was a few days later that Cousin Jane's cat disappeared. 
This was a great blow to Cousin Jane, but Mr. Mannering was 
not, in his heart of hearts, greatly sorry. He was not fond of the 
cat, for he could not open the smallest chink in a glass roof for 
ventilation but the creature would squeeze through somehow to 
enjoy the warmth, and in this way it had broken many a tender 
shoot. But before poor Cousin Jane had lamented two days some- 
thing happened which so engrossed Mr. Mannering that he had 
no mind left at all with which to sympathize with her affliction, 
or to make at breakfast kind and hypocritical inquiries after the 
lost cat. A strange new bud appeared on the orchid. It was clearly 
evident that there would be two quite different sorts of bloom on 
this one plant, as sometimes happens in such fantastic corners of 
the vegetable world, and that the new flower would be very dif- 
ferent in size and structure from the earlier ones. It grew bigger 
and bigger, till it was as big as one's fist. 

And just then — it could never have been more inopportune — 
an affair of the most unpleasant, the most distressing nature sum- 
moned Mr. Mannering to town. It was his wretched nephew, in 



[2S4] Green Thoughts 



trouble again, and this time so deeply and so very disgracefully 
that it took all Mr. Mannering's generosity, and all his influence 
too, to extricate the worthless young man. Indeed, as soon as he 
saw the state of affairs, he told the prodigal that this was the very 
last time he might expect assistance, that his vices and his ingrati- 
tude had long cancelled all affection between them, and that for 
this last helping hand he was indebted only to his mother's mem- 
ory, and to no faith on the part of his uncle either in his repentance 
or his reformation. He wrote, moreover, to Cousin Jane, to relieve 
his feelings, telling her of the whole business, and adding that the 
only thing left to do was to cut the young man off entirely. 

When he got back to Torquay, Cousin Jane had disappeared. 
The situation was extremely annoying. Their only servant was a 
cook who was very old and very stupid and very deaf. She suf- 
fered besides from an obsession, owing to the fact that for many 
years Mr. Mannering had had no conversation with her in which 
he had not included an impressive reminder that she must always, 
no matter what might happen, keep the big kitchen stove up to a 
certain pitch of activity. For this stove, besides supplying the 
house with hot water, heated the pipes in the "Observation Ward," 
to which the daily gardener who had charge of the other hot- 
houses had no access. By this time she had come to regard her 
duties as stoker as her chief raison d'etre, and it was difficult to 
penetrate her deafness with any question which her stupidity and 
her obsession did not somehow transmute into an inquiry after 
the stove, and this, of course, was especially the case when Mr. 
Mannering spoke to her. All he could disentangle was what she 
had volunteered on first seeing him, that his cousin had not been 
seen for three days, that she had left without saying a word. Mr. 
Mannering was perplexed and annoyed, but, being a man of 
method, he thought it best to postpone further inquiries until he 
had refreshed himself a little after his long and tiring journey. A 
full supply of energy was necessary to extract any information 
from the old cook; besides, there was probably a note somewhere. 
It was only natural that before he went to his room Mr. Man- 
nering should peep into the hothouse, just to make sure that the 
wonderful orchid had come to no harm during the inconsiderate 
absence of Cousin Jane. As soon as he opened the door his eyes 
fell upon the bud; it had now changed in shape very considerably, 



Green Thoughts [235] 



and had increased in size to the bigness of a human head. It is no 
exaggeration to state that Mr. Mannering remained rooted to the 
spot, with his eyes fixed upon this wonderful bud, for fully five 
minutes. 

But, you will ask, why did he not see her clothes on the floor? 
Well, as a matter of fact (it is a delicate point) , there were no 
clothes on the floor. Cousin Jane, though of course she was en- 
tirely estimable in every respect, though she was well over forty, 
too, was given to the practice of the very latest ideas on the dual 
culture of the soul and body — Swedish, German, neo-Greek, and 
all that. And the orchid-house was the warmest place available. 
I must proceed with the order of events. 

Mr. Mannering at length withdrew his eyes from this stupen- 
dous bud and decided that he must devote his attention to the 
grey exigencies of everyday life. But although his body dutifully 
ascended the stairs, heart, mind, and soul all remained in adora- 
tion of the plant. Although he was philosophical to the point of 
insensibility over the miserable smallness of the earlier flowers, 
yet he was now as much gratified by the magnitude of the great 
new bud as you or I might be. Hence it was not unnatural that 
Mr. Mannering while in his bath should be full of the most ex- 
alted visions of the blossoming of his heart's darling, his vegetable 
godchild. It would be the largest known, by far; complex as a 
dream, or dazzlingly simple. It would open like a dancer, or like 
the sun rising. Why, it might be opening at this very moment! 
Mr. Mannering could restrain himself no longer; he rose from the 
steamy water, and, wrapping his bath-towel robe about him, hur- 
ried down to the hothouse, scarcely staying to dry himself, though 
he was subject to colds. 

The bud had not yet opened: it still reared its unbroken head 
among the glossy, fleshy foliage, and he now saw, what he had 
had no eyes for previously, how very exuberant that foliage had 
grown. Suddenly he realized with astonishment that this huge 
bud was not that which had appeared before he went away. That 
one had been lower down on the plant. Where was it now, then? 
Why, this new thrust and spread of foliage concealed it from him. 
He walked across, and discovered it. It had opened into a bloom. 
And as he looked at this bloom his astonishment grew to stupe- 
faction, one might say to petrification, for it is a fact that Mr. 



[236] Green Thoughts 



Mannering remained rooted to the spot, with his eyes fixed on 
the flower, for fully fifteen minutes. The flower was an exact 
replica of the head of Cousin Jane's lost cat. The similitude was 
so exact, so lifelike, that Mr. Mannering's first movement, after 
the fifteen minutes, was to seize his bath-towel robe and draw it 
about him, for he was a modest man, and the cat, though bought 
for a Tom, had proved to be quite the reverse. I relate this to 
show how much character, spirit, presence — call it what you will 
— there was upon this floral cat's face. But although he made to 
seize his bath-towel robe, it was too late. He could not move. The 
new lusty foliage had closed in unperceived, the too lightly dis- 
missed tendrils were everywhere upon him; he gave a few weak 
cries and sank to the ground, and there, as the Mr. Mannering of 
ordinary life, he passes out of this story. 

Mr. Mannering sank into a coma, into an insensibility so deep 
that a black eternity passed before the first faint elements of his 
consciousness reassembled themselves in his brain. For of his brain 
was the center of a new bud being made. Indeed, it was two or 
three days before this at first almost shapeless and quite primi- 
tive lump of organic matter had become sufficiently mature to be 
called Mr. Mannering at all. These days, which passed quickly 
enough, in a certain mild, not unpleasant excitement, in the outer 
world, seemed to the dimly working mind within the bud to re- 
sume the whole history of the development of our species, in a 
great many epochal parts. 

A process analogous to the mutations of the embryo was being 
enacted here. At last the entity which was thus being rushed 
down an absurdly foreshortened vista of the ages arrived, slowing 
up, into the foreground. It became recognizable. The Seven Ages 
of Mr. Mannering were presented, as it were, in a series of close- 
ups, as in an educational film; his consciousness settled and 
cleared. The bud was mature, ready to open. At this point, I be- 
lieve, Mr. Mannering's state of mind was exactly that of a patient 
who, wakening from under an anaesthetic, struggling up from 
vague dreams, asks plaintively, "Where am I?" Then the bud 
opened, and he knew. 

There was the hothouse, but seen from an unfamiliar angle. 
There, through the glass door, was his study. There below him 



Green Thoughts [237] 



was the cat's head and there — there beside him was Cousin Jane. 
He could not say a word, but then, neither could she. Perhaps it 
was as well. At the very least, he would have been forced to own 
that she had been in the right in an argument of long standing; 
she had always maintained that in the end no good would come of 
his preoccupation with "those unnatural flowers." 

It must be admitted that Mr. Mannering was not at first greatly 
upset by this extraordinary upheaval in his daily life. This, I 
think, was because he was interested, not only in private and per- 
sonal matters, but in the wider and more general, one might say 
the biological, aspects of his metamorphosis. For the rest, simply 
because he was now a vegetable, he responded with a vegetable 
reaction. The impossibility of locomotion, for example, did not 
trouble him in the least, or even the absence of body and limbs, 
any more than the cessation of that stream of rashers and tea, 
biscuits and glasses of milk, luncheon cutlets, and so forth, that 
had flowed in at his mouth for over fifty years, but which had 
now been reversed to a gentle, continuous, scarcely noticeable 
feeding from below. All the powerful influence of the physical 
upon the mental, therefore, inclined him to tranquillity. But the 
physical is not all. Although no longer a man, he was still Mr. 
Mannering. And from this anomaly, as soon as his scientific in- 
terest had subsided, issued a host of woes, mainly subjective in 
origin. 

He was fretted, for instance, by the thought that he would now 
have no opportunity to name his orchid, or to write a paper upon 
it, and, still worse, there grew up in his mind the abominable con- 
viction that, as soon as his plight was discovered, it was he who 
would be named and classified, and that he himself would be the 
subject of a paper, possibly even of comment and criticism in the 
lay press. Like all orchid collectors, he was excessively shy and 
sensitive, and in his present situation these qualities were very 
naturally exaggerated, so that the bare idea of such attentions 
brought him to the verge of wilting. Worse yet was the fear of 
being transplanted, thrust into some unfamiliar, draughty, proba- 
bly public place. Being dug up! Ugh! A violent shudder pulsated 
through all the heavy foliage that sprang from Mr. Mannering's 
division of the plant. He awoke to consciousness of ghostly and 



[238] Green Thoughts 



remote sensations in the stem below, and in certain tufts of leaves 
that sprouted from it; they were somehow reminiscent of spine 
and heart and limbs. He felt quite a dryad. 

In spite of all, however, the sunshine was very pleasant. The 
rich odor of hot, spicy earth filled the hothouse. From a special 
fixture on the hot-water pipes a little warm steam oozed into the 
air. Mr. Mannering began to abandon himself to a feeling of 
laissez-aller. Just then, up in a corner of the glass roof, at the ven- 
tilator, he heard a persistent buzzing. Soon the note changed from 
one of irritation to a more complacent sound; a bee had managed 
to find his way after some difficulty through one of the tiny chinks 
in the metal work. The visitor came drifting down and down 
through the still, green air, as if into some subaqueous world, and 
he came to rest on one of those petals which were Mr. Manner- 
ing's eyebrows. Thence he commenced to explore one feature after 
another, and at last he settled heavily on the lower lip, which 
drooped under his weight and allowed him to crawl right into Mr. 
Mannering's 'mouth. This was quite a considerable shock, of 
course, but on the whole the sensation was neither as alarming nor 
as unpleasant as might have been expected; indeed, strange as it 
may sound, the appropriate word seemed to be something like — 
refreshing. 

But Mr. Mannering soon ceased his drowsy toyings with the 
mot juste when he saw the departed bee, after one or two lazy 
circlings, settle directly upon the maiden lip of Cousin Jane. Omi- 
nous as lightning, a simple botanical principle flashed across the 
mind of her wretched relative. Cousin Jane was aware of it also, 
although, being a product of an earlier age, she might have re- 
mained still blessedly ignorant had not her cousin — vain, garru- 
lous, proselytizing fool! — attempted for years past to interest her 
in the rudiments of botany. How the miserable man upbraided 
himself now! He saw two bunches of leaves just below the flower 
tremble and flutter, and rear themselves painfully upwards into 
the very likeness of two shocked and protesting hands. He saw 
the soft and orderly petals of his cousin's face ruffle and incarna- 
dine with rage and embarrassment, then turn sickly as a gardenia 
with horror and dismay. But what was he to do? All the rectitude 
implanted by his careful training, all the chivalry proper to an 
orchid-collector, boiled and surged beneath a paralytically calm 



Green Thoughts [239] 



exterior. He positively travailed in the effort to activate the mus- 
cles of his face, to assume an expression of grief, manly contrition, 
helplessness in the face of fate, willingness to make honorable 
amends, all suffused with the light of a vague but solacing op- 
timism; but it was in vain. When he had strained till his nerves 
seemed likely to tear under the tension, the only movement he 
could achieve was a trivial flutter of the left eyelid — worse than 
nothing. 

This incident completely aroused Mr. Mannering from his veg- 
etable lethargy. He rebelled against the limitations of the form 
into which he had thus been cast while subjectively he remained 
all too human. Was he not still at heart a man, with a man's hopes, 
ideals, aspirations — and capacity for suffering? 

When dusk came, and the opulent and sinister shapes of the 
great plant dimmed to a suggestiveness more powerfully impres- 
sive than had been its bright noonday luxuriance, and the at- 
mosphere of a tropical forest filled the orchid-house like an exile's 
dream or the nostalgia of the saxophone; when the cat's whiskers 
drooped, and even Cousin Jane's eyes slowly closed, the unhappy 
man remained wide awake, staring into the gathering darkness. 
Suddenly the light in the study was switched on. Two men en- 
tered the room. One of them was his lawyer, the other was his 
nephew. 

"This is his study, as you know, of course," said the wicked 
nephew. "There's nothing here. I looked round when I came over 
on Wednesday." 

"Ah, well!" said the lawyer. "It's a very queer business, an ab- 
solute mystery." He had evidently said so more than once before; 
they must have been discussing matters in another room. "Well, 
we must hope for the best. In the meantime, in all the circum- 
stances, it's perhaps as well that you, as next-of-kin, should take 
charge of things here. We must hope for the best." 

Saying this, the lawyer turned, about to go, and Mr. Mannering 
saw a malicious smile overspread the young man's face. The un- 
easiness which had overcome him at first sight of his nephew was 
intensified to fear and trembling at the sight of this smile. 

When he had shown the lawyer out, the nephew returned to the 
study and looked round him with lively and sinister satisfaction. 
Then he cut a caper on the hearth-rug. Mr. Mannering thought 



[240] Green Thoughts 



he had never seen anything so diabolical as this solitary expression 
of the glee of a venomous nature at the prospect of unchecked 
sway, here whence he had been outcast. How vulgar petty triumph 
appeared, beheld thus; how disgusting petty spite, how appalling 
revengefulness and hardness of heart! He remembered suddenly 
that his nephew had been notable, in his repulsive childhood, for 
his cruelty to flies, tearing their wings off, and for his barbarity 
towards cats. A sort of dew might have been noticed upon the 
good man's forehead. It seemed to him that his nephew had only 
to glance that way, and all would be discovered, although he 
might have remembered that it was impossible to see from the 
lighted room into the darkness in the hothouse. 

On the mantelpiece stood a large unframed photograph of Mr. 
Mannering. His nephew soon caught sight of this, and strode 
across to confront it with a triumphant and insolent sneer. "What? 
You old Pharisee," said he, "taken her off for a trip to Brighton, 
have you? My God! How I hope you'll never come back! How I 
hope you've fallen over the cliffs, or got swept off by the tide or 
something! Anyway — I'll make hay while the sun shines. Ugh! 
you old skinflint, you!" And he reached forward his hand, on 
which the thumb held the middle finger bent and in check, and 
that finger, then released, rapped viciously upon the nose in the 
photograph. Then the usurping rascal left the room, leaving all 
the lights on, presumably preferring the dining-room with its cel- 
larette to the scholarly austerities of the study. 

All night long the glare of electric light from the study fell full 
upon Mr. Mannering and his Cousin Jane, like the glare of a cheap 
and artificial sun. You who have seen at midnight in the park a 
few insomniac asters standing stiff and startled under an arc light, 
all their weak color bleached out of them by the drenching chemi- 
cal radiance, neither asleep nor awake, but held fast in a tense, 
a neurasthenic trance, you can form an idea of how the night 
passed with this unhappy pair. 

And towards morning an incident occurred, trivial in itself, no 
doubt, but sufficient then and there to add the last drop to poor 
Cousin Jane's discomfiture and to her relative's embarrassment 
and remorse. Along the edge of the great earthbox in which the 
orchid was planted ran a small black mouse. It had wicked red 
eyes, a naked, evil snout, and huge, repellent ears, queer as a 



Green Thoughts [241] 



bat's. This creature ran straight over the lower leaves of Cousin 
Jane's part of the plant. It was simply appalling: the stringy main 
stem writhed like a hair on a coal-fire, the leaves contracted in an 
agonized spasm, like seared mimosa; the terrified lady nearly up- 
rooted herself in her convulsive horror. I think she would actually 
have done so, had not the mouse hurried on past her. 

But it had not gone more than a foot or so when it looked up 
and saw, bending over it, and seeming positively to bristle with 
life, that flower which had once been called Tib. There was a 
breathless pause. The mouse was obviously paralyzed with terror, 
the cat could only look and long. Suddenly the more human 
watchers saw a sly frond of foliage curve softly outward and close 
in behind the hypnotized creature. Cousin Jane, who had been 
thinking exultantly, "Well, now it'll go away and never, never, 
never come back," suddenly became aware of hideous possibilities. 
Summoning all her energy, she achieved a spasmodic flutter, 
enough to break the trance that held the mouse, so that, like a 
clock-work toy, it swung round and fled. But already the fell arm 
of the orchid had cut off its retreat. The mouse leaped straight at 
it. Like a flash five tendrils at the end caught the fugitive and held 
it fast, and soon its body dwindled and was gone. Now the heart 
of Cousin Jane was troubled with horrid fears, and slowly and 
painfully she turned her weary face first to one side, then to the 
other, in a fever of anxiety as to where the new bud would appear. 
A sort of sucker, green and sappy, which twisted lightly about her 
main stem, and reared a blunt head, much like a tip of asparagus, 
close to her own, suddenly began to swell in the most suspicious 
manner. She squinted at it, fascinated and appalled. Could it be 

her imagination? It was not 

Next evening the door opened again, and again the nephew en- 
tered the study. This time he was alone, and it was evident that 
he had come straight from table. He carried in his hand a decanter 
of whisky capped by an inverted glass. Under his arm was a 
siphon. His face was distinctly flushed, and such a smile as is 
often seen at saloon bars played about his lips. He put down his 
burdens and, turning to Mr. Mannering's cigar cabinet, produced 
a bunch of keys which he proceeded to try upon the lock, mut- 
tering vindictively at each abortive attempt, until it opened, 
when he helped himself from the best of its contents. Annoying as 



[242] Green Thoughts 



it was to witness this insolent appropriation of his property, and 
mortifying to see the contempt with which the cigar was smoked, 
the good gentleman found deeper cause for uneasiness in the 
thought that, with the possession of the keys, his abominable 
nephew had access to every private corner that was his. 

At present, however, the usurper seemed indisposed to carry on 
investigations; he splashed a great deal of whisky into the tumbler 
and relaxed into an attitude of extravagant comfort. But after a 
while the young man began to tire of his own company; he had 
not yet had time to gather any of his pothouse companions into 
his uncle's home, and repeated recourse to the whisky bottle only 
increased his longing for something to relieve the monotony. His 
eye fell upon the door of the orchid-house. Sooner or later it was 
bound to have happened. Does this thought greatly console the 
condemned man when the fatal knock sounds upon the door of 
his cell? No. Nor were the hearts of the trembling pair in the hot- 
house at all comforted by the reflection. 

As the nephew fumbled with the handle of the glass door, 
Cousin Jane slowly raised two fronds of leaves that grew on each 
side, high up on her stem, and sank her troubled head behind 
them. Mr. Mannering observed, in a sudden rapture of hope, that 
by this device she was fairly well concealed from any casual 
glance. Hastily he strove to follow her example. Unfortunately, 
he had not yet gained sufficient control of his — his limbs? — and 
all his tortured efforts could not raise them beyond an agonized 
horizontal. The door had opened, the nephew was feeling for the 
electric light switch just inside. It was a moment for one of the 
superlative achievements of panic. Mr. Mannering was well 
equipped for the occasion. Suddenly, at the cost of indescribable 
effort, he succeeded in raising the right frond, not straight up- 
wards, it is true, but in a series of painful jerks along a curve 
outward and backward, and ascending by slow degrees till it at- 
tained the position of an arm held over the possessor's head from 
behind. Then, as the light flashed on, a spray of leaves at the very 
end of this frond spread out into a fan, rather like a very fleshy 
horse-chestnut leaf in structure, and covered the anxious face 
below. What a relief! And now the nephew advanced into the 
orchid-house, and now the hidden pair simultaneously remem- 
bered the fatal presence of the cat. Simultaneously also, their very 



Green Thoughts [243] 



sap stood still in their veins. The nephew was walking along by 
the plant. The cat, a sagacious beast, "knew" with the infallible 
intuition of its kind that this was an idler, a parasite, a sensualist, 
gross and brutal, disrespectful to age, insolent to weakness, bar- 
barous to cats. Therefore it remained very still, trusting to its low 
and somewhat retired position on the plant, and to protective 
mimicry and such things, and to the half-drunken condition of the 
nephew, to avoid his notice. But all in vain. 

"What?" said the nephew. "What, a cat?" And he raised his 
hand to offer a blow at the harmless creature. Something in the 
dignified and unflinching demeanor of his victim must have pene- 
trated into even his besotted mind, for the blow never fell, and 
the bully, a coward at heart, as bullies invariably are, shifted his 
gaze from side to side to escape the steady, contemptuous stare of 
the courageous cat. Alas! His eye fell on something glimmering 
whitely behind the dark foliage. He brushed aside the intervening 
leaves that he might see what it was. It was Cousin Jane. 

"Oh! Ah!" said the young man, in great confusion. "You're back. 
But what are you hiding there for?" 

His sheepish stare became fixed, his mouth opened in bewilder- 
ment; then the true condition of things dawned upon his mind. 
Most of us would have at once instituted some attempt at com- 
munication, or at assistance of some kind, or at least have knelt 
down to thank our Creator that we had, by His grace, been spared 
such a fate, or perhaps have made haste from the orchid-house to 
ensure against accidents. But alcohol had so inflamed the young 
man's hardened nature that he felt neither fear, nor awe, nor 
gratitude. As he grasped the situation a devilish smile overspread 
his face. 

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" said he. "But where's the old man?" 

He peered about the plant, looking eagerly for his uncle. In a 
moment he had located him and, raising the inadequate visor of 
leaves, discovered beneath it the face of our hero, troubled with a 
hundred bitter emotions. 

"Hullo, Narcissus!" said the nephew. 

A long silence ensued. The nephew was so pleased that he could 
not say a word. He rubbed his hands together, and licked his lips, 
and stared and stared as a child might at a new toy. 

"Well, you're properly up a tree," he said. "Yes, the tables are 



[244] Green Thoughts 



turned now all right, aren't they? Ha! Ha! Do you remember the 
last time we met?" 

A flicker of emotion passed over the face of the suffering blos- 
som, betraying consciousness. 

"Yes, you can hear what I say," added the tormentor, "feel, too, 
I expect. What about that?" 

As he spoke, he stretched out his hand and, seizing a delicate 
frill of fine, silvery filaments that grew as whiskers grow round the 
lower half of the flower, he administered a sharp tug. Without 
pausing to note, even in the interests of science, the subtler shades 
of his uncle's reaction, content with the general effect of that 
devastating wince, the wretch chuckled with satisfaction and, tak- 
ing a long pull from the reeking butt of the stolen cigar, puffed the 
vile fumes straight into his victim's center. The brute! 

"How do you like that, John the Baptist?" he asked with a leer. 
"Good for the blight, you know. Just what you want!" 

Something rustled upon his coat sleeve. Looking down, he saw 
a long stalk, well adorned with the fatal tendrils, groping its way 
over the arid and unsatisfactory surface. In a moment it had 
reached his wrist, he felt it fasten, but knocked it off as one would 
a leech, before it had time to establish its hold. 

"Ugh!" said he. "So that's how it happens, is it? I think I'll keep 
outside till I get the hang of things a bit. / don't want to be made 
an Aunt Sally of. Though I shouldn't think they could get you 
with your clothes on." Struck by a sudden thought, he looked 
from his uncle to Cousin Jane, and from Cousin Jane back to his 
uncle again. He scanned the floor, and saw a single crumpled bath- 
towel robe lying in the shadow. 

"Why!" he said. "Well!— Haw! Haw! Haw!" And with an odious 
backward leer, he made his way out of the orchid-house. 

Mr. Mannering felt that his suffering was capable of no increase. 
Yet he dreaded the morrow. His fevered imagination patterned 
the long night with waking nightmares, utterly fantastic visions 
of humiliation and torture. Torture! It was absurd, of course, for 
him to fear cold-blooded atrocities on the part of his nephew, but 
how he dreaded some outrageous whim that might tickle the 
youth's sense of humor, and lead him to any wanton freak, espe- 
cially if he were drunk at the time. He thought of slugs and snails, 
espaliers and topiary. If only the monster would rest content with 



Green Thoughts [245] 



insulting jests, with wasting his substance, ravaging his cherished 
possessions before his eyes, with occasional pulling at the whiskers, 
even! Then it might be possible to turn gradually from all that 
still remained in him of man, to subdue the passions, no longer to 
admire or desire, to go native as it were, relapsing into the Nir- 
vana of a vegetable dream. But in the morning he found this was 
not so easy. 

In came the nephew and, pausing only to utter the most per- 
functory of jeers at his relatives in the glass house, he sat at the 
desk and unlocked the top drawer. He was evidently in search of 
money, his eagerness betrayed that; no doubt he had run through 
all he had filched from his uncle's pockets, and had not yet worked 
out a scheme for getting direct control of his bank account. How- 
ever, the drawer held enough to cause the scoundrel to rub his 
hands with satisfaction and, summoning the housekeeper, to bel- 
low into her ear a reckless order upon the wine and spirit merchant. 

"Get along with you!" he shouted, when he had at last made 
her understand. "I shall have to get someone a bit more on the 
spot to wait on me; I can tell you that. Yes," he added to himself 
as the poor old woman hobbled away, deeply hurt by his bullying 
manner, "yes, a nice little parlor-maid — a nice little parlor-maid." 

He hunted in the Buff Book for the number of the local registry 
office. That afternoon he interviewed a succession of maidservants 
in his uncle's study. Those that happened to be plain, or too obvi- 
ously respectable, he treated curtly and coldly; they soon made 
way for others. It was only when a girl was attractive (according 
to the young man's depraved tastes, that is) and also bore herself 
in a fast or brazen manner, that the interview was at all pro- 
longed. In these cases the nephew would conclude in a fashion 
that left no doubt at all in the minds of any of his auditors as to 
his real intentions. Once, for example, leaning forward, he took the 
girl by the chin, saying with an odious smirk, "There's no one else 
but me, and so you'd be treated just like one of the family; d'you 
see, my dear?" To another he would say, slipping his arm round 
her waist, "Do you think we shall get on well together?" 

After this conduct had sent two or three in confusion from the 
room, there entered a young person of the most regrettable de- 
scription, one whose character, betrayed as it was in her meretri- 
cious finery, her crude cosmetics, and her tinted hair, showed yet 



[246] Green Thoughts 



more clearly in florid gesture and too facile smile. The nephew 
lost no time in coming to an arrangement with this creature. In- 
deed, her true nature was so obvious that the depraved young 
man only went through the farce of an ordinary interview as a 
sauce to his anticipations, enjoying the contrast between conven- 
tional dialogue and unbridled glances. She was to come next day. 
Mr. Mannering feared more for his unhappy cousin than for him- 
self. "What scenes may she not have to witness," he thought, 
"that yellow cheek of hers to incarnadine?" If only he could have 
said a few words. 

But that evening, when the nephew came to take his ease in 
the study, it was obvious that he was far more under the influence 
of liquor than he had been before. His face, flushed patchily by 
the action of the spirits, wore a sullen sneer, an ominous light 
burned in that bleared eye, he muttered savagely under his breath. 
Clearly this fiend in human shape was what is known as "fighting 
drunk"; clearly some trifle had set his vile temper in a blaze. 

It is interesting to note, even at this stage, a sudden change in 
Mr. Mannering's reactions. They now seemed entirely egoistical, 
and were to be elicited only by stimuli directly associated with 
physical matters. The nephew kicked a hole in a screen in his 
drunken fury, he flung a burning cigar-end down on the carpet, 
he scratched matches on the polished table. His uncle witnessed 
this with the calm of one whose sense of property and of dignity 
has become numbed and paralyzed; he felt neither fury nor morti- 
fication. Had he, by one of those sudden strides by which all such 
development takes place, approached much nearer to his goal, 
complete vegetation? His concern for the threatened modesty of 
Cousin Jane, which had moved him so strongly only a few hours 
earlier, must have been the last dying flicker of exhausted altru- 
ism; that most human characteristic had faded from him. The 
change, however, in its present stage, was not an unmixed bless- 
ing. Narrowing in from the wider and more expressly human re- 
gions of his being, his consciousness now left outside its focus not 
only pride and altruism, which had been responsible for much of 
his woe, but fortitude and detachment also, which, with quota- 
tions from the Greek, had been his support before the whole bat- 
tery of his distresses. Moreover, within its constricted circle, his 
ego was not reduced but concentrated, his serene, flowerlike in- 






Green Thoughts [247] 



difference towards the ill-usage of his furniture was balanced by 
the absorbed, flowerlike single-mindedness of his terror at the 
thought of similar ill-usage directed towards himself. 

Inside the study the nephew still fumed and swore. On the man- 
telpiece stood an envelope, addressed in Mr. Mannering's hand- 
writing to Cousin Jane. In it was the letter he had written from 
town, describing his nephew's disgraceful conduct. The young 
man's eye fell upon this and, unscrupulous, impelled by idle curi- 
osity, he took it up and drew out the letter. As he read, his face 
grew a hundred times blacker than before. 

"What," he muttered, " 'a mere race-course cad ... a worth- 
less vulgarian ... a scoundrel of the sneaking sort' . . . and 
what's this? '. . . cut him off absolutely . . .' What?" said he, 
with a horrifying oath. "Would you cut me off absolutely? Two 
can play at that game, you old devil!" 

And he snatched up a large pair of scissors that lay on the desk, 
and burst into the hothouse 

Among fish, the dory, they say, screams when it is seized upon 
by man; among insects, the caterpillar of the death's-head moth 
is capable of a still, small shriek of terror; in the vegetable world, 
only the mandrake could voice its agony — till now. 





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